I (Leif Hedegard) am not a doctor or a scientist. However, I have, some years ago, studied medicine for two and a half years.
I am not an expert on this subject, and therefore I have tried, even though it is far from complete, to include scientific references to statements / facts. Where I have found no scientific references, I have tried to state / indicate (using words as maybe, hopefully...) that it is a belief / non-scientific-report / clinical experience and not (yet) scientifically proven to be true / false or clinically significant / non-significant. In some cases I have not mentioned where the information came from, usually this is because I am working on checking and double-checking the references to this or because the information did not come from scientific media.
As an answer to a request that I should state my interest in the amalgam-controversy as this would make it easier, for readers of this FAQ, to be aware of potential biases from my side the following hopefully provides enough information:
Over the past years I have suffered from long periods of multi-symptomatic illness. In the search for ways to improve my own health I have, among other things, read articles in the amalgam- / mercury-field. I my self do not know, beyond all reasonable scientific doubts, if there is or isn't such a thing as a (non-allergic-) amalgam-related illness. My present belief is, however, that some people are indeed suffering from a (non-allergic-) amalgam-related illness as well as there are people suspecting / claiming that they are suffering from a (non-allergic-) amalgam-related illness who really suffers from something else.
You can not always get a straight answer in advance and often one has to make decisions (even in medicine) based upon non-absolute grounds (as experience, belief, tradition, consensus-statements, theoretical calculations as risk management, common sense...). But in this particular matter it is potentially possible that we will, in the future, get a (more) straight answer with more relevant quality science. I would like to know the answer and therefore I would like to see more such science to clear the question out.
For me it seems:
- that a statement like "amalgam is scientifically proven to be safe" is not grounded on science ( DHHS 1993 page 4, 15) and therefore false, even though amalgam may (hypothetically), in the future, be proven to be "safe " as we can prove anything (that is when ALL ways of showing the opposite has failed). If others and I accept statements like "amalgam is safe" we also will have to accept that there will not be much science in the field - why should anyone investigate / give money to investigate the possible danger of something that is already established as "proven to be safe". This is one reason why it is so important to say "we do not know if amalgam is safe or not" instead. DHHS (1993 page 15) writes: "...additional research is needed to resolve the question of whether the mercury in dental amalgam poses any significant health risk to patients..."
- that a scientific / political... mistake was to, a priori, for long time consider dental materials as being biologically inactive - they have thereby never been bio-compatibility tested or side-effect-reported in the same way that pharmaceutics has been for a long time. For example DHHS (1993) states: "...encourage dental care providers to report adverse reactions... " which of course is good but at the same time indicates that, at least, up till 1993 it has not been a rule to report side-effects, from dental materials, in USA. There has been recommended that a special program should be established for reporting and investigating adverse reactions to dental materials (NIH 1992 ).
"... All active testing programs for restorative materials, as for dental materials in general, have (until recently) been limited to laboratory evaluations of their chemical and physical properties... no effective reporting system from general dental practice has been established in any country to record side-effects equivalent to that of drugs..."
- a bit odd that the sales and implantation of dental material in general is permitted without declaration of the contents to the patient, dentist or the scientific society. There has been recommended that all restorative materials should be provided with information listing all the constituents used to make each material ( DHHS (1993) page 22, NIH 1992 ), information that should then be referenced to in each patient's chart (NIH 1992 ). Why has this not been done long ago?
- that dental amalgam is, from a toxicological point of view, unsuitable as a dental restorative material.
- that it is time to consider if not recommendations to lower the patients Hg-exposition further during work on amalgam (compared to water-cooling and high volume suction) should be made.
- that the relevant questions concerning mercury-dose in the general population should be:
- Do the mercury-doses in the general amalgam-bearing population from all sources together reach toxic levels? (The answer I find is: No, it does not seem so)
- If not, could there instead be that a minority of the population has such a high mercury-dosage from amalgam (and other sources) and / or has got such raised (non-allergic-) sensitivity to amalgam / mercury that they can get ill from their amalgam fillings? (The answer I find is: We do not know)
This FAQ is copyrighted: Leif Hedegard 1994 -1997.
S-118 63 Stockholm
Also make sure to read these books:
Poison in Your Teeth: Mercury Amalgam (Silver) Fillings...Hazardous to Your Health! and Mercury Detoxification by Tom McGuire