The possible connection between mercury amalgam fillings and hair loss is one of the most hotly debated topics I’ve researched!
In fact, hair loss is just one of a slew of health problems attributed, campaigners say, to the use of mercury in dentistry.
Yet the mainstream dental profession – and the FDA – strongly refutes the idea that mercury amalgam fillings are in any way harmful to human health.
So who to believe?
Should you be concerned if your existing fillings contain mercury? Should you try to avoid mercury amalgam fillings in future?
This article looks at why some experts warn against the use of dental amalgam – and what to do if you believe your fillings may be affecting your health.
Please note: This information should not be seen as medical advice. You should speak to a qualified dental practitioner about any concerns you may have regarding mercury fillings.
Why are some experts concerned about the use of mercury in fillings?
In short, because mercury is a highly toxic element, with mercury poisoning the second most common cause of toxic metal poisoning.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include:
- burning sensation in the extremities (known as peripheral neuropathy)
- elevated heart rate
- increased sweating
- skin discoloration (pink fingertips and toes, pink cheeks)
- increased production of saliva
- poor co-ordination
- hair loss
- high blood pressure
- muscle weakness
- sensitivity to light
- memory problems
Mercury poisoning may also lead to zinc deficiency – another contributing factor for hair loss.
There are 3 forms of mercury – elemental, organic and inorganic – and various ways we can be exposed to them, including via:
- certain fish – particularly swordfish and tuna
- fresh produce and seeds treated with mercurial fungicides
- certain medications and vaccinations
- mercury amalgam fillings
- occupational exposure (through, for example, adhesives, fabric softeners, disinfectants, batteries and chemicals used in the control of algae)
So if there’s a risk, why is mercury used at all?
Mercury is a popular filling material with dentists because it is both cheap and pliable. The pliability enables the dentist to mix it and then press it into the tooth, where it hardens quickly and has the strength to withstand biting and chewing.
The problem, however, is that these fillings may not be as robust as previously believed, with some sources suggesting that small amounts of mercury vapor can be released into the body as the filling wears.
Small as these amounts may be, some experts fear that they can be harmful because of the extended period of time the body is exposed to them.
How does the dental profession view this risk?
The dental profession is somewhat divided on this issue.
Currently, both the American and British Dental Associations state that mercury fillings are safe. Indeed the British Dental Association (BDA) and the Council of European Dentists have been actively lobbying against a full ban on dental amalgam.
Nevertheless, new EU guidelines state that its use should be restricted – not, the BDA says, because it is harmful to human health, but because its disposal is harmful to the environment.
This may be so – after all, the metallic mercury used by dentists is treated as a hazardous material, both for shipping and disposal purposes.
But the stipulation in the guidelines agreed on March 14th 2017 state that there should be
No use of amalgam in the treatment of deciduous teeth, children under 15 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women, except when strictly deemed necessary by the practitioner on the ground of specific medical needs of the patient (from 1 July 2018)
This surely indicates a clear sense of doubt as to its absolute safety (although, yet again, the BDA refutes this).
Furthermore, there has been a rise in the number of mercury-free dentists, who are firmly convinced that it poses a danger to human health and are actively working to provide an alternative.
A 2011 article published in the UK’s Guardian included comments from Marie Grosman, scientific adviser for the Non au Mercure Dentaire organisation, who stated:
We should pay attention to the materials dentists are using in our mouths. Toxicity tests are needed to guarantee that they are innocuous and compatible with our bodies. That would rule out mercury immediately, which has several proven toxic effects.
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) – a not-for-profit organisation and accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP’s) Global Mercury Partnership – works to inform consumers about the risks of amalgam mercury and ways in which those risks can be eliminated.
Their (inarguably logical!) goal is “to always seek the safest, least toxic way to accomplish the goals of modern dentistry and contemporary healthcare”. In a world where health care provision is sometimes more strongly motivated by financial considerations, some may find this a refreshing philosophy.
You can read more about their work here (external link).
So should I have my mercury fillings replaced?
As opposed to the use of mercury amalgam as they are, even mercury-free dentists do not always recommend the removal of existing fillings. This is because drilling and other techniques used in removal can cause a lot of mercury to be released very quickly. This can then be inhaled by both you AND the dental staff treating you.
Other dentists recommend removal only if the fillings are worn or damaged (in which case they are more likely to be releasing mercury into the body), or if there is decay under the filling.
The IAOMT, however, has developed safety recommendations for the removal of fillings – the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART). This is designed to minimize any risk.
You can read the SMART recommendations here and the IAOMT actually recommends that you do so, in order to ensure your own dentist follows the corrects procedures if you go ahead with removal.
There are currently a small number of SMART certified dentists listed here.
NOTE: The IAOMT does not recommend that you have mercury fillings removed if you are pregnant.
Are there any alternatives to mercury amalgam fillings?
Yes. There are new dental amalgams that contain both iridium and mercury – the iridium helps prevent the mercury from being released into the body.
There are also amalgams made of a mixture of copper and mercury, with the mercury making up the smaller proportion of the mixture.
Mercury-free – but somewhat less strong than amalgam – is composite resin. Composite resin fillings take longer to prepare and require extreme care by the dentist, so you would need to spend more time in the treatment chair.
The other problem is that some composites contain Bisphenol-A (BPA).
BPA carries its own set of health risks – indeed, its use is banned in the manufacture of baby bottles. And some cancer charities are asking that its use in food packaging is banned too.
If you choose a composite resin filling as opposed to mercury amalgam, be sure to check that it’s BPA free.
To sum up…
When you’re suffering from hair loss and looking for answers, any potential causes are worth consideration and investigation.
The concept that hair loss may be triggered by mercury poisoning from fillings is not proven – but there seems to be enough doubt within the dental profession to take the possibility seriously.
If you have worn or broken mercury amalgam fillings – or simply feel that you would like to have these fillings removed – then you may wish to speak to a mercury-free dentist for advice.
And should you require any NEW fillings, then you may wish to request a mercury-free (and BPA-free) alternative.
Sources and for more information
The Dental Amalgam Toxicity Fear: A Myth or Actuality (an article supporting the use of mercury)
Mercury Fact Sheet from IAOMT
Over to you…
Do you have any comments or opinions about the connection between hair loss and mercury fillings? Have you had fillings removed, or looked for an alternative to amalgam?
Please do use the form below to share your thoughts.
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