by Dr K. Hajikakou Bsc BDS LDS RCS(Eng) DIHom LFHom (Dent) Dip Clin Hypnosis PGCE
Dr Hajikakou runs a homeopathic amalgam free practice at Rye, East Sussex.
This article looks at the effects of dental materials on the health of the individual. There are many dental materials in use to restore broken teeth. The main criteria considered by the dental materials experts have been their physical characteristics, e.g. coefficients of expansion and contraction, compressive and shear strengths. Little, if any, thought has been given to the biological effects of these materials. In particular it now appears that metals used to restore teeth can have profound effects on the physical, mental and spiritual health of patients. Present day non-metal or white filling materials, i.e. composites and porcelains appear, at present, to be safer alternatives. The main emphasis of the-is article will be on amalgam but some discussion will also be given to the metals used in crowns (caps).
Broadening the field of dental toxicity would include some things that I cannot go into here, such as dental hygiene products, e.g. toothpaste, antiseptic mouthwashes, impression materials, rubber products and acrylate resins used in dentures and root canal medications. The effects of ionising radiation from dental x-ray machines could also be included, not to mention fluoride, which calcifies the pineal gland, accumulates in the pituitary and has a marked hypothyroid action! It is no wonder that Professor Vimy (Professor of Oral Medicine, Calgary University, Canada), referring to the dental profession, said "Never has so much harm been done to so many by so few" (Vimy, 2000).
Metals used in crowns (caps)
Gold is becoming more popular with many dentists in this country. Dental gold is an alloy made of gold, silver, copper, palladium, platinum and zinc. The following metals are to be found in dental casting alloys used to make crowns and bridges: beryllium, cobalt, cadmium, gallium, nickel, rhodium, iridium and indium. Unfortunately, these alloys release metal ions into the body. Is there any evidence that metal ions can cause harm? According to Professor John Wataha (Professor of Oral Rehabilitation at the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, USA), the answer is a resounding yes. In sufficient concentrations and in certain forms metal ions can kill tissues, cause allergies, inflammatory reactions and cancer (Wataha, 1999).
Swelling and irritation with redness and pain in the region of a metal crown could well signify an allergic reaction to one or more of the metals. Dermatitis having a perioral distribution (around the mouth) is also suggestive of allergy originating from a dental source. Palladium and nickel are highly allergenic metals.
Before considering the effects of mercury, let us look at the electrical activity of amalgam fillings. Each filling acts like a battery (Certosimo, 1996). As the filling is an alloy and is bathed by an electrolyte, i.e. saliva, a potential difference arises leading to electrical currents being generated. These currents are of an order of magnitude 1,000 times greater than those generated by nerve cells. This can lead to the impairment of nerve functioning and neurotransmitter release (Sheppard, 1997). The proximity of the brain to oral amalgam fillings can, in some patients, lead to neurological problems such as "brain fog" (the inability to think clearly, and depression). From my clinical experience patients have reported being"clear-headed", as if a fog has lifted, after having had their amalgam fillings removed. This effect is experienced rapidly, whereas mercury toxicity effects take longer to resolve.
The safe protocol to adopt for the removal of amalgam fillings and corresponding homeopathic and nutritional support is shown below.
When is a poison not a poison?
The answer to this riddle is, of course, when it is in your mouth! Amalgam (a mixture of mercury with another metal) or "silver" fillings contain silver, copper, tin, zinc and mercury. Amalgam fillings are made up of 50% mercury and should be known as mercury fillings, not silver fillings.
It is ironic that waste amalgam (i.e. outside the body) must be stored in secure conditions owing to the release of mercury vapour and has to be disposed of by licensed disposal companies. However, when it is placed in people's teeth it "miraculously" transforms itself into a complete inert material, which is perfectly safe! At least that is the official line. "It is generally agreed that if amalgam was introduced today as a restorative material, it would never pass FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval" (Wolfe et al, 1983). The case against using amalgam is, in my opinion, overwhelming.
Amalgam some facts
When I was studying dentistry I was told that mercury was "locked into" the filling and, therefore, was not released. This is totally untrue (Jones et al, 1983). Mercury vapour is released during the entire life of the filling. As mercury vapour is colourless, odourless and tasteless it escapes undetected by the recipient of that filling. More vapour is released each time your chew, drink anything hot or brush your teeth. The more fillings you have, the larger the surface area of the fillings the more vapour you will be exposed to, and the greater the health risk. The vapour is rapidly absorbed via the lungs and nasal mucosa and accumulates in areas of high metabolic activity, e.g. brain, gut, kidneys, liver and heart. The toxicity of mercury is well documented: it is more toxic than lead and arsenic combined. The toxic threshold, i.e. the level below which it is considered safe has never been established. The World Health Organisation states "No level of exposure to mercury can be considered harmless". WHO also states that dental amalgam is the single largest source of mercury exposure for the public, contributing upto 84% of daily intake:
• mercury from fillings (average of 8) 17 mcg/day
• mercury from all other sources: seafood, air and water 2-6 mcg/day (WHO, 1991)
Autopsy studies confirm that the brain is the critical target organ for mercury. Brain tissue mercury levels are far higher in patients with amalgam fillings than in the patients having no fillings present. Professor Boyd Haley (Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Kentucky, USA) has demonstrated the effects mercury has on brain biochemistry. Structures known as microtubules found in nerve cells,w which are essential for transportation of substances along the nerve are greatly affected by the presence of mercury. This may be a key contributory factor in Alzheimer's disease. Haley has also demonstrated hat in the presence of cadmium, another widely present pollutant, mercury toxicity is greatly increased. Mercury is found in structures associated with memory, e.g. the hippocampus, amygdala and nucleus basalis.
Experiments in sheep and monkeys clearly show that when mercury fillings are place, the mercury deposits in the brain, kidneys and liver. Kidney function determined by albumin excretion (albumin is a normal blood protein) is greatly reduced in those animals receiving amalgam fillings (Vimy et al, 1990). Another worrying fact is that mercury crosses over the placenta into the foetus within two days of amalgam placement, accumulating in the fetal brain and liver (Vimy et al, 1990). Breast milk has also been found to contain significant levels of mercury.
Oral and gut bacteria can metabolise inorganic mercury to organic mercury, e.g. methyl mercury, another powerful toxin. And if this is not bad enough the presence of mercury has been shown to increase the resistance of oral and gut bacteria to antibiotics within two weeks of amalgam placement (Summers et al, 1993). Ampicillin, tetracyclin, streptomycin, erythromycin, kanamycin and chloramphenicol are all antibiotics whose effects are greatly reduced in the presence of mercury.
Oral lichen planus, a condition where the oral mucosa changes to form white patches with a lacy pattern has now a well-established link with mercury containing amalgam fillings. This is seen in those individuals who have sensitivity to mercury and where amalgam filling is in direct contact with the oral tissue. Is this a hazard to health professionals who deal with amalgam fillings?
Dentists have four times more mercury in the urine compared with the rest of the population and a suicide rate two to six times greater than average. Is this due to a stressful job or is it, perhaps, mercury related? I feel it is the latter. Female dental personnel have twice the rate of infertility, miscarriage and spontaneous abortion compared to the rest of the female population.
Symptoms of mercury toxicity
metallic taste - due to electrical activity and corrosion
burning pains - mouth, throat and stomach
swollen salivatory glands
diarrhoea and vomiting
anxiety/nervousness, often with difficulty in breathing
exaggerated response to stimulation
lack of self-control
fits of anger, with violent irrational behaviour
loss of self-confidence
shyness or timidity, being easily embarrassed
loss of memory
inability to concentrate
mental depression, despondency
numbness and tingling of the hands, feet, fingers, toes and lips
muscle weakness progressing to paralysis
tremors/trembling of hands, feet, lips, eyelids or tongue
myoneural transmission failure resembling myasthenia gravis
motor neurone disease
alveolar bone loss
loosening of teeth
burning sensation, with tingling of lips and face
tissue pigmentation (amalgam tattoo of gums)
ulceration of gingiva, palate and tongue
food sensitivities, especially to milk and eggs
abdominal cramps, colitis, diverticulitis or other GI complaints
subnormal body temperature
cold, clammy skin, especially hands and feet
excessive perspiration, with frequent night sweats
unexplained sensory symptoms, including pain
unexplained numbness or burning sensations
The earliest symptoms of long-term, low-level mercury poisoning are extremely subtle and easily misdiagnosed. Certain idiosyncrasies may develop or subtle psychiatric, neurological problems may begin to show. Mercury from dental amalgam does, in my opinion, constitute a significant health hazard. Controlled scientific studies looking at the effects on the health of patients of mercury from dental amalgam fillings have never been conducted. The scientific experts say that there is no evidence to show that mercury from amalgam does any harm. Does this, therefore, mean it is safe? I think not. Bertand Russell, the philosopher, once said "Even when all the experts agree, they may well be wrong".
Certosimo, A.J. and O'Connor, R.P. (1996) "Oral electricity", General Dentistry, July/August: 324-326
Conference of IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) Oxford, June, 2000
Hansen, K. et al (1984) "A survey of metal induced mutagen in vitro and in vivo", Journal American Coll. Toxicology, 3: 381-430
Jones, D.W. et al (1983) "Mercury leaves dental amalgam continuously throughout the lifetime of the filling", Canadian Dental Association Journal, 4906: 378-395
Sheppard, A.R. and Eisentod, M. (1997) Biological Effects of Electric and Magnetic Fields in Extremely Low Frequency, New York: New York University Press
Summers, A.O. et al (1993) "Mercury released from dental "silver" fillings provokes an increase in mercury and antibiotic resistant bacteria in oral and intestinal floras of primates", Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, April: 301-323
Vimy, M.J. et al (1990) "Maternal fetal distribution of mercury released from dental amalgam fillings", The American Physiological Society, R939-R945
Vimy, M.J. et al (1990) "Whole-body imaging of the distribution of mercury released from dental fillings into monkey tissues", FASEB Journal, Vol.4: 3256-3260
Wataha, J. (1999) "Biocompatability of dental alloys", The Probe, March: 21-32
World Health Organisation Criteria, 1991:118, Geneva, Switzerland
Huggins, H. (1993) It's all in your head: the link between mercury amalgam and illness. New York: Avery Publishing Group Inc.
Protocol for safe removal of amalgam fillings
There are many protocol regimes to aid mercury elimination during and after amalgam removal. The cost of supplements and the complexities of taking certain products can be a major barrier for some patients. I suggest a fairly simple regime with costs kept at a reasonable level:
• before amalgam removal: Mercurius solubilis 30c or Amalagam 30c, 2 doses a day for one or two days before treatment
• after amalgam removal: one dose of Mercury solubilis 30c immediately after treatment.
Sulphur naturally binds free mercury and thus aids its elimination. Foods rich in sulphur should be eaten plentiful and as often as possible for at least one week post-amalgam removal. Such foods are onions, garlic, eggs (yolk), pulses and brassicas, e.g. sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. A selenium supplement with vitamins A, C and E is beneficial taken for one week after removal. The patient should drink plenty of good quality water.
It should be noted that amalgam fillings must be removed in a set sequence depending upon their electrical activity. In each quadrant of the mouth the filling having the highest negative charge should be removed first and so on. Remove the fillings in descending order of negative charge, until a filling with a positive reading is reached. If such a filling is present it would be removed but only after the negative charged fillings have gone.
It is essential that amalgam fillings are removed using a rubber dam and high volume suction. I think it sensible that patients should use a dentist committed to amalgam free dentistry with experience of amalgam removal and composite placement. A dentist still using amalgam might not have the experience necessary to undertake this procedure to ensure the best outcome for the patient. Patients are sometimes told that composite is not strong enough, long lasting enough or suitable for large fillings. My experience has taught me that this is completely untrue. In 15 years in practice I have never yet had to replace a composite filling which has failed and some have been very large.
There are two ways of tackling amalgam removal. One is (as I would term it) "kill or cure", whereby all amalgam fillings are removed within one week. The other method I call a "softly softly" approach whereby amalgam fillings are removed one by one at intervals of at least four weeks. This has the advantage of allowing the body to recover between each "assault on the system", which is how I imagine the body perceives the process and to which it would react accordingly. I favour the latter method as being gentler and kinder for the patient.
Because of the time and expense involved I recommend that amalgam removal should only be undertaken as a last resort once the patient's practitioner has exhausted all other avenues towards the patient recovery.
Once all amalgams have been removed it is important that no more mercury enters the body as this would defeat the detoxification process. Fish should not be eaten while there is still evidence of mercury toxicity, possibly indefinately. Patients should take saunas regularly for several months as this encourages waste products, including mercury, to be eliminated via the skin.
Finally, the two most powerful natural products for mobilising and eliminating stored mercury from body tissues are Cilantro (Chinese parsley) and Chlorella (green algae). Cilantro is taken as drops (orally) or rubbed into the wrists or ankles. Chlorella tablets are taken orally in an ascending dosage scheme to suit the patient, starting at 1g three times daily for one week only. Initially, careful supervision is necessary.
Dr K. Hajikakou Bsc BDS LDS RCS(Eng) DIHom LFHom (Dent) Dip Clin Hypnosis PGCE