by Dr. Fredda Rosenbaum

Mercury has fascinated people for millennia as the “liquid silver”. Civilizations were mesmerized by it, believing mercury held magical physical and spiritual properties. It was used in ancient times as a tincture for immortality (they died from it). Romans used it extensively in cosmetics and many were disfigured by it. Alchemists were convinced it could be turned into gold. It was saved as a treasure.

Eventually, it was discovered that psychological illnesses were associated with mercury exposure. Hat makers and their clients were going mad. Hat makers were using mercury to shape hat brims and, due to extensive exposure, succumbed to many versions of mental illness. The devastating effects of high-dose mercury exposure has continued to be well documented into modern times. In fact, the Minimata Convention has most of the world’s countries agreeing to eliminate mercury use. This was named for the village of Minimata, in Japan, where an industrial pollutant—mercury—had the village reeling with cases of seizures, deformities, cancer and death. It took years before the clear, irrefutable connection was made. Yet, it is still being used today in dentistry, in your mouth, as an amalgam filling.

What is an amalgam filling? An amalgam filling is a material silver in color and replaces sections of tooth lost to decay. Amalgam is composed of 50 percent elemental mercury (liquid form) mixed with a powder of silver, tin and copper. The fillings vary in size depending on the extent of the decay and can replace from one to five surfaces of a tooth. There is no chemical adherence to the tooth so it is held in place by friction, rust and corrosion. Amalgam is susceptible to fracture and wear. Over time, as the margins degrade, bacteria find their way in and frequently there is decay below the old silver fillings. As with any metal alloy, it expands and contracts with temperature changes, like hot tea or ice, and is commonly the cause of tooth fractures. Saliva is an electrolytic solution and, as any metal in an ionic environment, these fillings carry an electric charge. Amalgam is long-lasting, inexpensive and easy to place and therefore has been a favorite material of dentists for over a hundred years. It is still being placed worldwide.

It may be surprising to learn that in some states it is illegal for a dentist to suggest that a mercury filling is dangerous to your health and they can lose their license for saying this! In other states the law requires you to be informed of the content of the material being placed in your mouth. It is legal, however, to remove these because they are ugly. Patients frequently request that the ugly silver fillings that show when they smile be changed to white fillings. But is this done safely?

In many countries it is mandated that amalgam fillings not be placed or removed in pregnant or nursing mothers. It has been demonstrated that if a woman has a toxic burden of mercury, it will be downloaded into the fetus and also pass into breast milk. They can dissect the umbilical cord and find it loaded with mercury. So you can be born with a toxic load of mercury. Add in exposure to contaminated fish, air, water, medicaments, herbs and vaccinations and the system gets overloaded!

It has been clearly demonstrated that mercury vapor is continuously released from a mercury filling over the lifetime of that filling. Grinding, chewing, clenching, brushing and temperature changes will release mercury. (Smiling is safe!) Imagine the amount of vapor that is released and absorbed when a mercury filling is drilled out. Where does this vapor go? It passes easily into the lungs, blood, sinus, brain and skin.

It’s important to know that in holistic dental offices patients and personnel are carefully protected from the mercury vapor being released. Gas masks, oxygen supply, air filters and high speed suction are just a few of the devices utilized when removing amalgams safely.

Mercury in the form of a vapor can be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs and pass through sinus membranes. In this form it can pass through the blood-brain barrier into the brain. It is tightly bound in the organs of the bodies as it replaces certain groups on proteins and enzymes. Viruses and bacteria feed off the mercury and convert it to its other forms. Does the presence of mercury disrupt their functions? How much is too much? Humans are not equipped with a good detoxification pathway for heavy metals such as mercury and therefore are subject to what is called bioaccumulation: It just keeps adding up.

Be aware that while the American Dental Association acknowledges the release of mercury from amalgam fillings and that the quantity of this vapor is in direct proportion to the number of fillings a person has, their research does not demonstrate a link between amalgams and any illness.

Fredda Rosenbaum, D.D.S. practices holistic and sedation dentistry, with a woman’s touch, at 2925 Aventura Blvd., Ste. 201, in Aventura. For information and to make an appointment, call 305-933-3350 or visit