About half of all dentists in the U.S. still use dental amalgam, which consists of 50 percent mercury combined with silver, tin, copper and other trace minerals. Mercury is the most volatile and toxic of the heavy metals, and the vapors released when chewing or brushing pose a clear and present danger to health, especially your brain and kidneys, as mercury is a neuro- and nephrotoxin. It’s also toxic to your reproductive system.
Europe is now paving the way for the rest of the world by banning the use of amalgam fillings in pregnant or nursing women and children under the age of 15. The rule takes effect on July 1 this year, and will apply across the entire European Union (EU)1 a— 28 countries in all, with a population totaling more than half a billion people. It took years to get this ban through, but it was well worth it. Millions of European children will never be exposed to dental mercury as a result of this victory.
American children, as of yet, are not so lucky. Despite great efforts to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce the Minamata Convention rule on mercury, which states that proactive steps must be taken by all signatory countries to phase out the use of dental mercury, the agency continues to encourage the use of amalgam, even in children.
Make Mercury-Free a Nonnegotiable Requirement
Dentists in the U.S. and elsewhere who are foolish enough to use amalgam do so primarily for financial reasons. It’s a quick and easy way to make a profit, and the long-term damage amalgam does to your teeth ensures repeat clientele. Consumers for Dental Choice, which has spent the last two decades advocating for the complete elimination of mercury from dentistry, has helped radically shift the playing field in favor of consumers who want mercury-free dentistry.
If you’ve not yet made this switch, please consider doing it now. Don’t let another year go by without locating a qualified mercury-free dentist. Doing so will not only protect your own health; it will also push the entire industry of dentistry closer to the goal where absolutely no one will have to get toxic mercury implanted into their teeth. By refusing to work with dentists who still use this pernicious poison, they will be forced to “get with the times” and go mercury-free, or lose their practice.
Insurance companies and government programs will also be forced to update their policies. At present, these third-party payers continue to promote amalgam use, and pose a major barrier to mercury-free dentistry in North America. This simply must come to an end, and consumer refusal of amalgam may be the quickest way to incite this change.
Check Your Insurance Policy
Did you know that, in the U.S., you’re actually more likely to receive mercury amalgam if you have dental insurance than if you’re uninsured? The reason for this is because many private insurance companies do not cover mercury-free fillings for all teeth. Even if they claim to cover composite or resin fillings, buried in the fine print you will often find that the plan does not cover mercury-free fillings in posterior (back) teeth. If you want a composite filling, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket, even though you have insurance.
Alternatively, some plans that do pay for composite fillings in molar teeth only cover them up to the cost of an amalgam, which means you’ll have to pay the difference. Many plans also contain a "least expensive alternative treatment" (LEAT) clause, which states that the plan will only pay for the least expensive treatment alternative — regardless of how inappropriate that alternative may be. Mercury fillings, without a doubt, are no longer appropriate for a laundry list of reasons.
Adding insult to injury, many insurance policies will not pay for the removal of old amalgams and replacement with composite fillings — even if your dentist believes this is the best treatment. The bottom line: Insurance plans often shuttle consumers into the pro-mercury dentist assembly line operating under the infamous motto of "drill, fill and bill” — and keep them going back there.