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Airplanes, not people, get metal fatigue.

Public concern about mercury's possible ill effects in dental fillings (including fatigue, high blood pressure, mental problems, etc.) had waned somewhat in recent years. However, a controversial "60 Minutes" segment that aired last December fanned the flames once again. Contributing to this and other media coverage was a report from Canada's University of Calgary which suggested that fillings placed in sheep's teeth caused the release of large amounts of mercury that had been deposited in various organs. This in turn produced severe kidney damage in some of the animals.

Unfortunately, the authors of the report first announced their results in a press release, and the media quickly seized upon their claims before other scientists could review their work. Subsequent review of the study showed a number of weaknesses. The amount of mercury in the amalgam used in the sheep teeth was far more than any dentist would use. The filling technique was sloppy, and sometimes more than a dozen fillings were put in at one time-hardly what any responsible dentist would dare do! Moreover, sheep are cud-chewers, which results in the fillings being ground down (and therefore releasing mercury into the system) far more than any human's would ever be. In summary, scientists who critically reviewed the study concluded that it was so flawed that its conclusions had no relevance to mercury amalgam's use in human dentistry.

What conclusions are we to draw about amalgam (silver) fillings, which some dentists have recommended replacing with more modem plastic or other fillings? Concerned scientists have concluded that there is no credible evidence the amalgam fillings have caused any human illness. They note that such fillings consist of mercury salts, not free metallic mercury, and that this 100-year-old material is probably safer and more durable than the more modern materials.

Traces of mercury are found in the air, food, and water that all of us breathe, eat, and drink. Thus, we are all exposed to it whether we have amalgam fillings or not. Persons who work in high-mercury environments (such as dentists, dental technicians, workers in mercury-vapor lamp factories, etc.) have been extensively studied and show no ill effects even at exposures 100 times greater than amalgam fillings can provide.

Taking out a filling releases far more mercury than putting one in or leaving it alone. Therefore, if your silver fillings are still doing the job of preserving your teeth, bless the dentist who put them in and save your hard-earned dollars for more pleasant things than the dentist's drill.
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Title Annotation:mercury in dental fillings
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:The staff of life is still good stuff.
Next Article:FDA commissioner speaks out.

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