How mercury affects your health as explained by your Burr Ridge dentist
Mercury is a naturally occurring, yet toxic substance. Unfortunately, it is present in amalgam fillings and is still used in many dental practices to restore decayed teeth. Like many patients, you may be wondering how mercury affects your health. Now, the answers are explained by your Burr Ridge dentist, Dr. Janet Stopka. Dr. Stopka maintains a mercury free, mercury safe dental office to protect her patients’ health.
Mercury is toxic
Concerns about mercury have been circulating for years especially since mercury has been declared harmful at all levels. Even small amounts can cause damage. Mercury is a poisonous, non-radioactive substance that has been linked to a number of health issues. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that exists in the air, water, and soil. It can be found in certain fish and in some products.
In dentistry, mercury is present in amalgam fillings. Silver amalgam fillings consist of metals, generally mercury, tin, silver, and copper. Elemental mercury often makes up 50% of the material. Mercury binds the metals to create a strong material. Amalgam fillings are still used by some dentists because they may be less expensive, are inserted quickly, and are considered durable. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the patient’s health.
How mercury affects your health
Amalgam fillings can release small amounts of mercury vapor over time. This results in patients absorbing the hazardous material as they inhale or ingest the vapors. With continued exposure, the body loses its effectiveness at removing mercury from the body. As a result, chronic mercury poisoning from the fillings accumulates over time leading to a number of symptoms. The severity of a patient’s symptoms depends upon the number of fillings, how long they have been in place, and how they are stimulated.
The FDA advises against amalgam fillings for patients who are pregnant or who already have medical conditions. Mercury can cross the placenta making the fetus susceptible to mercury toxicity. It can also pass through breast milk if you choose to breastfeed after your baby is born. For pregnant women and their babies, mercury has been linked to
- Low birth weight
- Central nervous system damage including damage to the brain and spinal cord
- Developmental issues such as delays, small head size, mental retardation, and seizures
Although babies are very susceptible to the damaging effects of mercury since they are still developing, children and adults are negatively impacted as well. Mercury can affect nearly every system of your body. Some symptoms of mercury toxicity include the following:
- Digestive issues – diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Respiratory problems – asthma, congestion, and shortness of breath
- Emotional changes – anxiety, depression, mood swings, anger
- Neurological issues – tremor, numbness, and memory loss
- Heart problems – irregular heartbeat, anemia
- Muscular system problems – muscle cramping, aches, or weakness
Our office is mercury safe and mercury free. We do not place amalgam fillings. However, when requested by patients, we will remove amalgam fillings. Our practice adheres to the strict guidelines laid out by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) for safe amalgam removal. Following these methods minimizes mercury exposure for the patient and dental staff.
Environmental effects from the release of dental amalgam waste
Dental amalgam does not just carry the potential for health risks when it is placed in your mouth to restore a damaged tooth. The waste is harmful to the environment, specifically if the proper collection and disposal practices are not followed. Dr. Stopka is conscious of the environmental impact of mercury and follows the strict protocol laid out by the IAOMT. As mentioned, this is done using precise steps for handling and removing amalgam fillings to ensure not only the safety of the patient and dental staff but also the safety of the environment.
Amalgam fillings are a source of toxic elemental mercury. To protect the environment, we follow steps for proper collection and disposal. Waste management includes separate systems for mercury vapors and for amalgam particles, a proper storage system for mercury materials, and a certified waste carrier for hazardous materials.
Dr. Stopka understands the importance of following mercury safe dentistry practices and offers biocompatible alternatives. She understands the impact your oral health has on the rest of your body. Contact our mercury-free dental office in Burr Ridge to schedule your appointment. Call 630 756-5844.