Mercury is a toxin; a poison, yet it’s commonly used in dentistry. Charlie Brown, president of the Consumers for Dental Choice and the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, has been leading the charge to eliminate this pernicious toxin from dentistry around the world for the last two decades. He spoke with Dr Mercola of mercola.com
The annual Mercury-Free Dentistry Week aims to raise awareness about the dangers of so-called “silver” amalgam fillings.
The good news is that, over the past few years, the tide has decidedly shifted in our favour, and is picking up speed.
“First of all is the point that consumer demand is really turning up the heat on dentists,’ Charlie says. ‘Dentists are increasingly (becoming) mercury-free.'”
But it’s not over yet; there are still hurdles to overcome before total victory can be claimed.
If amalgam is so dangerous, why are dentists still using it?
The main reason mercury remained in use for so long is because of the “iron triangle” – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state Dental Boards, and the American Dental Association (ADA) – put a system in place that forced dentists to hide the truth, and kept the public clueless to the fact that “silver fillings” contain mercury.
There’s less silver in amalgam than mercury. The name refers to the colour only, while hiding the fact that 50 percent of amalgam is mercury – a known neurotoxin. As explained by Charlie:
“The Dental Boards stopped dentists from telling patients about the mercury. The Food and Drug Administration sanctioned the entire system.
The American Dental Association, with its patents on amalgam, promoted amalgam as a silver filling. They still do that. (When we began) that was what we faced – only three percent of the dentists in America were mercury-free in the mid-1990s.”
Since then, we’ve seen enormous progress in efforts to eliminate this poison from the field of dentistry, where it serves absolutely no purpose in the 21st century. There are far safer and overall better filling materials available today, so there’s really no justification to keep using a toxic substance.
Dental Boards Have Now Been Defeated
Today, the FDA still presents a major barrier, but the other two parts of that iron triangle have been defeated. Dental boards no longer silence dentists, and dentists may freely speak out against mercury and may advertise and advocate mercury-free dentistry.
In the past, they risked losing their license or going to jail for speaking out against the status quo of amalgam. As an attorney, Charlie actually helped end the gag rule against dentists, and helped some dentists get their licenses reinstated.
Despite such progress, about half of all Americans still do not know that amalgam contains mercury. In fact, a quarter of the public thinks the main component is silver.
“It’s an intentional deception by the American Dental Association that the Food and Drug Administration has supported and encouraged for all these years,’ Charlie says.
“The FDA supports this cabal and this lack of information. In fact, in their rule they say they’d like more amalgam use, not less! That’s pretty outrageous.'”
If Your Dentist Still Uses Amalgam, Switch to One Who Doesn’t
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about half of all American dentists are now practicing mercury-free dentistry, which is a huge achievement.
In every community in America, you can find a mercury-free dentist, and I urge you to keep looking until you find one. You can use the seven links at the bottom of this page to help you find one.
“Never go to a dentist that uses mercury fillings on anybody; on the welfare child, on the young, on the old, on the black or white, or the Asian, or on anyone. Do not go to that dentist. Don’t give them one dollar, one euro, one pound, one peso, or one Australian dollar. Go to a mercury-free dentist; the men and women who only put safe materials in everyone’s mouth,” Charlie advises.
If you’re leaving a dentist because he or she still uses amalgam, tell them the reason why you’re leaving
Because they need to know that mercury in dentistry will no longer be tolerated.
Mercury-free dentistry should not be viewed as an exclusive or exclusionary club. We want the entire profession to be mercury-free. If your dentist says, “We won’t give you mercury if you don’t want it,” be sure to respond by saying, “I’m sorry doctor, but you shouldn’t give it to anyone.”
The reason for this is because many of the poorest and most vulnerable among us are also the least educated on this issue. And they keep getting amalgam, which can only harm them even more over the long term.
By standing up to dentists that fail to protect ALL of their patients, we can help those who need protection the most but have the least means to stand up for themselves. With enough economic pressure, the dentists who are still using mercury fillings will eventually switch over to stay in business.
Now, if you have amalgam fillings, you’re probably going to want to have them removed at some point. But be careful. Just as many dentists are still convinced amalgam is safe to put in, many are under-informed about the dangers associated with taking them out. Removal of mercury fillings goes beyond just finding a mercury-free dentist; the dentist must have additional training.
The ADA Has Also Been Defeated
The American Dental Association will never use the word “mercury.” They don’t want to talk about mercury and the amalgam patents the ADA holds is the reason why. The ADA is on the wrong side of this issue, but the Minamata Convention on Mercury was a game changer that even the ADA can no longer stand against, because now we have a global position against amalgam and for mercury-free industry.
The ADA fought vigorously to keep amalgam out of the mercury treaty, but they failed because amalgam is a major environmental pollutant. Getting amalgam included in the Minamata Convention was also largely due to the worldwide grassroots efforts initiated by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry.
Formed in 2010, the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry has vice presidents in South America, Europe, Africa, the Island States, South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific State, the Oceania region, and the Middle East. All of whom run their own non-profit groups.
“The World Dental Federation, which is the American Dental Association on steroids, just came (to the Minamata convention) with a bunch of older white guys in suits. It was so funny. We came with women and men of all colours, from all parts of the world, speaking all major languages,’ Charlie says.
‘We were the most effective team to get amalgam into the convention and now implement it — because we are all over the world now working to end amalgam. For example, there are mercury-free dental hospitals in Cameroon and in Eastern India. There are mercury-free dentals schools in Nigeria and Bangladesh.
There have been national stakeholder conferences to end amalgam in the Philippines and Paraguay. Quite significantly, in Côte d’Ivoire, the Ivory Coast, this year there was a conference where 13 nations in Africa sent representatives… We worked for two days on how to transition dentistry in Africa from amalgam to mercury-free dentistry.'”
The Minamata Convention on Mercury ultimately resulted in a World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty signed by 120 countries, including the US, which places a deadline on ending the use of mercury in dentistry. The treaty needs 50 countries to ratify it. While most countries signed it, only 25 so far have ratified it; the first of which was the US.
This treaty requires immediate action to phase down the use of amalgam. Phasing down means you make efforts to decrease use until you get to zero. In fact, the treaty can be amended to require zero usage because it’s in the appendix. That was the battle the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry won against the ADA, which wanted amalgam listed elsewhere in the treaty.
“So, the roadmap is there,’ Charlie says. ‘In fact, amalgam is one of those products that have a very specific roadmap: change insurance, change government programs to favour alternatives, change the dental school curriculum, and educate consumers. We have a booklet (describing these) phase-down steps, printed in English, Spanish, and French. It’s been distributed throughout the world.'”
Next Step: Take on the FDA
At present, the US FDA is the barrier. The FDA refuses to take a stand against amalgam. For example, the FDA doesn’t require dentists to disclose the presence of mercury in amalgam to their patients as a matter of rule. They also keep promoting use of the term “silver fillings,” even though it’s clearly misleading and deceptive.
“We have pushed them; they push back. A couple of years ago, the FDA chief of public affairs director wrote to the deputy commissioner and said, ‘We need to have a communications end game for Charlie Brown.’ Well, I’m happy to say that both of those guys are gone from the FDA and I’m still here,” Charlie says.
In September, Consumer’s for Dental Choice will launch a more ambitious plan to tackle the FDA.