Is amalgam safe? What about the alternatives?

teeth About twenty years ago I had all my amalgam fillings removed. Some people say they are toxic. The difference in my mental state was immediate and dramatic. I've been told the replacements will not last. They are getting old now and, if anything, they are doing better than the previous ones.

"I don't feel comfortable using a substance designated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a waste disposal hazard. I can't throw it in the trash, bury it in the ground, or put it in a landfill, but they say it's okay to put it in people's mouths. That doesn't make sense." - Richard D. Fischer, DDS

According to the CDC, amalgam is a mixture consisting of about half mercury and half an alloy of silver, tin, and copper and maybe smaller amounts of zinc, palladium, and indium. That's what the CDC says. The little bit of general science that I think I know says that alloys are metals and other materials combined at the molecular level such that they produce a more or less new metal. A mixture, on the other hand, is simply some things mixed together. Each thing in it still retains it characteristics and can independently interact with its environment. In other words, when you put amalgam in your mouth, you are eating mercury.

According to the German Ministry of Health, "Amalgam is considered a health risk from a medical viewpoint due to the release of mercury vapor." Everyday activities such as chewing and brushing the teeth have been shown to release mercury vapors from amalgams. Amalgams can also erode and corrode with time (ideally they should be replaced after seven to ten years), a process that adds to their toxic output.

Studies by the World Health Organization show that a single amalgam can release three to seventeen micrograms of mercury per day, making dental amalgam a major source of mercury exposure. A Danish study of a random sample of one hundred men and one hundred women showed that increased blood mercury levels were related to the presence of more than four amalgam fillings in the teeth. American, Swedish, and German scientists examining cadavers have also found a clear relationship between the number of fillings and the mercury count in the brain and kidneys.

In Germany the sale and manufacture of amalgams has been prohibited since March 1992, and in Sweden, after a special commission determined that amalgam was a toxic material, that country's Social Wellfare and Health Administration issued an advisory against its use in the dental treatments of pregnant women. Later, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden banned the use of mercury in dental amalgams. In the United States, however, little is being done to deal with the effects of mercury amalgams because most dentists still maintain that they are safe. They continue to place mercury in their patients' mouths even though the metal is more toxic than arsenic.

The problem is so widespread that Dr. Taylor now devotes his entire practice to the removal of amalgams. "There have been no studies [in the United States] on the safety of mercury in dental work, but when it leaks from the teeth it can cause both physical and mental problems," he states. Dr. Arana adds that "numbness and tingling, paralysis, tremors, and pain are just some of the symptoms of chronic metal intoxication associated with the use of mercury dental amalgams."