Organic Consumers Association

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With Dental Fillings, it's a Question of Mercury Amalgam vs. Composite

About 10 years ago, Kay Meyer lost 60 pounds when she developed severe food allergies. She couldn't think clearly, suffered from severe headaches and chronic fatigue.

Meyer didn't know for sure if the toxic element mercury made her sick, but as an adult she tended to eat large amounts of fish, was exposed to mercury working as a dental hygienist and had a mouthful of amalgam fillings. Those fillings are about half mercury.

"It was determined that a combination of all three of those things led me to have pretty high elevation of mercury in my system and organs and blood stream, which caused a myriad of health problems including fatigue, brain fog, inflammation throughout my body particularly in my digestive system and bladder," Meyer said. "I was diagnosed with high mercury elevation. Eventually, I found a dentist in Skowhegan who over several months very carefully removed all my fillings. Over time, my symptoms got better -- some of them went away."

The 65-year-old Meyer, of Waldoboro, said doctors found her elevated levels by testing her hair, urine and blood.

Today, more than half of Maine dentists have stopped using dental fillings with mercury because of cosmetic, health and environmental reasons, according to Matt Prindiville of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

A composite tooth-colored resin is replacing amalgam fillings, which are a mixture of mercury and other metals including silver, copper and tin, according to Frances Miliano, executive director of the Maine Dental Association.

Prindiville said the state has a number of regulations to help this movement along. A 2002 law requires dentists to inform their patients that amalgam dental fillings contain about 50 percent mercury.

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