See that weird picture right here to the left? That’s a whole body scan of a sheep 29 days after it had 12 mercury fillings placed in it’s mouth. The dark spots in the picture… that’s where the mercury deposited in it’s body. So how did all that mercury get from the mouth to the body? Remember Mercury 101? Mercury amalgams at body temperature constantly off gas mercury vapour. Well it turns out that when you breath in mercury vapour, it easily passes through the lungs at a rate of about 80%. That means that 80% of the mercury you breath in get’s into your body. Yikes.
So mercury definitely get’s into the body through the lungs, but what about through the digestive tract? In most of my research I found sources that say that the certain form of mercury released from amalgam (called elemental mercury) does not easily cross over through the intestines. But Dr. Christopher Shade blew my mind at the seminar on Friday by totally turning this on it’s head. He brought research that showed us that there are bacteria in the digestive tract that can take the elemental mercury and convert it into another form (called methyl mercury… the kind you find contaminating fish), and this form passes through the gut at a rate of 95%. So now you have another source of mercury and the biologically active form at that. We’ll get into more detail about different forms of mercury later but for now, this is how mercury gets into the body, through the lungs AND the intestines.
Oh, and one more picture before we go. The scientists who did the above experiment were criticized for using a sheep because a sheep “chews too much”. The critics said the excessive chewing would release more mercury from the amalgam than a human would. So they repeated the experiment on a monkey. Do you see a difference? I don’t see a difference.
So my history with dentists is a pretty long and sordid affair. I would love to get my hands on my old dental records so I could see exactly what went on in there over the years, but for now I will give you the basic synopsis of what I can remember.
Many of my baby teeth got cavities. These were all filled with mercury amalgam with no dental dam (the latex sheet that stops particles from going down your throat). Then, my adult teeth grew in, and most (all?) of my new molars got cavities. These were again filled with mercury amalgam… without protection. It was at this point that my dentist retired and a new one took over. When the new dentist first checked my teeth he found a whole lot of cavities living under the fillings. Apparently the old guy hadn’t done such a good job. So the work of refilling these began.
I’m guessing I was probably about 12 or 13 when this started happening. A lot of mercury was moved out of my teeth over this time. Earlier I talked about how mercury easily off gasses from amalgam at body temperature, well think about what might happen when you take a high powered drill to a mercury filled tooth, the temperature skyrockets and massive amounts of mercury are released from the tooth. Most of my old mercury fillings were replaced with white composite fillings (if you have fillings but it just looks like tooth, then this is what they’re filled with), but I have about 4 large mercury fillings still kicking around in my mouth. And I want them gone!
Ok, so what exactly is mercury and why can it be a problem when it’s in our mouths? Let’s back up a bit here and look at some of the basics about mercury. It’ll be important stuff to know when we get to talking about what mercury does in our bodies. It might get a little sciencey but I’ll do my best to break it down and keep it simple… please don’t run away.
Do you remember this guy from high school? The periodic table of elements. All matter in the universe is made up of the things you see below.
As for mercury, it’s #80 in the table, making it one of the most basic components of matter in the universe. It’s not a molecule, which would be a combination of elements in the table, it’s just simply an element that can exist on it’s own.
Most of us have probably seen mercury at room temperature, it’s that super cool looking liquid metal you find in old school thermometers (This scene in Terminator 2 paints a pretty picture). Increase to body temperature though and mercury now has the ability to become a vapour. Want an intense visual of mercury as a vapour? Check out this (slightly dated) video of an extracted mercury amalgam filling in front of a black light to see mercury vapour in action.
So, the gist of Mercury 101… mercury at room temp is a liquid, but increase the temp a little (eg. body temperature) and you’ve got a substance that easily off gasses.
Keep your eyes peeled for Mercury 102… Mercury getting into the body.
There is mercury in my mouth. And there might be mercury in your mouth too. Those little grey-black fillings you see in your teeth, those aren’t made out of sterling silver and they’re not called “amalgam” for nothing. By weight, all “silver” amalgam fillings are around 50% elemental mercury and mercury, despite being a naturally occurring element, is one of the most toxic substances to humans on the planet.
So, if it’s so toxic why is mercury in your mouth and mine? According to Canadian and American regulatory bodies, scientists, the government and most dentists in North America, mercury amalgams are perfectly safe and we’re in no danger having them live in our mouths for decades. But take a look at Europe and you’ll see that Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany have banned or restricted the use of mercury fillings for both health and environmental reasons.
A Google search will quickly fill you in on the basic controversy. But it seems like a no brainer to me, that such a toxic substance in our mouths may have consequences. I’ve had a basketful of undiagnosable symptoms for much of my adult life and after looking quite deeply into the topic I think that there is a good chance I can tie a whole bunch of them to accumulated mercury in my body.
So what exactly is my goal here? Over the next year or so I’m going to go on a personal journey of amalgam removal and heavy metal detoxification. I want to know if my hunch is right. And if you’re interested I want you to know too. I’m going to fill you in on what my symptoms have been, what the process is that I’m undertaking and then see if anything changes. I’m going to dig deep, talk to experts and hopefully spread the word that many of us have mercury in our mouth and don’t even know it.