Mouthful of mercury

There is considerable disagreement over the effect of mercury in amalgam fillings on health, with many dentists insisting that these fillings are not dangerous and others claiming the complete opposite.  What isn’t disputed is that mercury is a poisonous substance and that leakage into the body is not recommended.

‘When a patient is properly identified as sensitive to mercury, there is nothing in medicine which compares with the health improvements of removing the amalgam using the appropriate cautions,’ Jack Levenson, founder of the British Society of Mercury Free Dentistry, (who died in 2003).

In January 1997 the British Dental Association (BDA) issued a fact sheet claiming that about three per cent of the population is estimated to suffer from mercury sensitivity. Three per cent of our population equates to around 1.75 million people – normally enough to constitute an epidemic.

  • In recent years the dangers of lead have become so well recognised that there have been many steps to remove our exposure to it.
  • Yet mercury is more poisonous than lead, and only less so than plutonium which is radio-active.
  • When it is released in the body mercury deposits in the kidneys, brain and central nervous system, as well as other organs.

How mercury affects health

Conventional thinking by the British Dental Association, the Department of Health and the many dentists still putting it in is that amalgam is a tightly bound chemical compound which cannot leak or release mercury. It is made up of metals including over 50 per cent mercury and silver, tin, copper and zinc.

However, many complementary practitioners often suggest having them removed to improve health.

Health problems which have been linked with mercury vapour leaking from teeth include:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome or ME
  • depression
  • sinusitis
  • poor concentration, irritability, memory loss
  • migraines, eye problems, dizziness
  • digestive problems and weight loss
  • bleeding gums, loose teeth
  • PMS
  • loss of libido
  • candida
  • sore throats, bad breath
  • fibromyalgia – aching in the joints, rheumatoid arthritis
  • heart problems
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis.

Removing fillings

Having amalgam fillings removed (unless they are causing problems) is not done on the Health Service, but as there are so few NHS dentists now this isn’t surprising.

Dentists who belong to the British Society of Mercury Free Dentists can test each filling for electricity – Dr Jack Levenson who founded the Society compared this to ‘a battery’ in the mouth.

Fillings that have a low reading are not treated as urgent, but if there is a reading of four or above the dentist will recommend replacement;
The Society’s dentists follow a protocol and usually remove fillings using precautions, so that vapour and bits of amalgam cannot be swallowed or inhaled by the patient, the nurse or the dentist;
They either supply or recommend taking vitamins and homeopathic tablets too to lessen the effects of the removal.

Other countries

It would be far too much a drain on the NHS to pay for everyone to have their fillings replaced, but other countries are making recommendations:

A senator in the States recently tabled a bill to phase out amalgam fillings;
The Swedish government will no longer pay for amalgam fillings to be put in,
The German Ministry of Health claims ‘Amalgam is considered a health risk from a medical viewpoint due to its release of mercury vapour’, and does not recommend amalgam fillings for women of reproductive age, children under six and anyone with kidney disease.

The dispute over the safety of putting mercury in the mouth has been raging since the practice began seriously in the 1800s. During that century amalgam was banned for 15 years by the American Society of Dental Surgeons because of its toxicity, but many dentists considered it safe and eventually it became accepted practice.

Caution in pregnancy

The only precaution given out by the Department of Health relates to pregnancy, and it states, ‘The safety of amalgam fillings was last reviewed by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment in 1997. They concluded that there was no available evidence indicating that the placement or removal of dental amalgam fillings during pregnancy is harmful, but felt that precautionary advice was warranted.’

The DoH suggests, ‘That it may be prudent to avoid, where clinically reasonable, the placement or removal of amalgam fillings during pregnancy,’ unless in an emergency situation. They do not make any other precautionary statements about the rest of the population.


It has been proven that the air inside a mouth containing mercury fillings always has mercury vapour in it, particularly after chewing.

Studies by the World Health Organisation demonstrated that one amalgam filling can release 3 to 17 micrograms of mercury a day, so that it could be breathed in all the time.

Most dentists tell their patients that the white composite mixture does not last as long as amalgam, and that it is more expensive. The NHS will only provide white fillings in front teeth and patients have to pay extra if they are required in back teeth.


While celebrities may choose to have sparkling white teeth for cosmetic reasons, the majority of us will only opt to lose our grey and black teeth because of suspected health links. At the very least, parents can ask that their children have white fillings and everyone can request them when they need replacements.


Caroline Tatham, 38, a self-employed textile designer, spent three years trying to have a baby and found that as soon as she had her mercury fillings removed she became pregnant naturally. Caroline and her husband, Mark, 40, an accountant from Chiswick, West London, started trying for a baby aftertheir honeymoon in 1999. ‘When we went to Africa on our honeymoon I took an anti-malarial drug but a short while after we’d come back I began to feel ill.

‘My immune system was very worn down, I had candida, a yeast infection, diarrhoea, headaches, numbness, excessively heavy periods, dizziness and nausea. Looking back I obviously had M.E. but at the same time I was trying to get pregnant.

‘The following year we went to our local hospital to have all the tests to see why we couldn’t conceive and I was told I wasn’t ovulating and that I was abundant in some hormones and deficient in others. They didn’t try to find out why this was happening, but put us forward for infertility treatment.

‘After a year’s treatment during which time I was taking a lot of synthetic hormones I still wasn’t pregnant and my health was deteriorating even more. Finally I had a laparoscopy where they take a camera through the tummy button to look at what might be going wrong and they found that I had polycystic ovaries and although I was producing eggs they were trapped under the surface of the ovary like a string of pearls and were not being released.

‘Then we opted for IUI (inter-uterine insemination) which is different from IVF because fertilisation is carried out in the womb rather than outside it. Again I had to take a lot of hormone drugs so that I would produce plenty of eggs, but after this my health was getting considerably worse.

‘I was going into a downwards spiral and I wasn’t getting pregnant. I felt so bad that on some occasions Mark had to take me home from work because I was vomiting at the time of ovulation. I was feeling very unhappy so I went to see a counsellor at the hospital, but she let me down and forgot my appointment which was the last straw for me.

‘I was already having Reflexology and Kinesiology while I was taking the hormone drugs, but the kinesiologist suggested I went on to a detox dietcutting out wheat, coffee, dairy foods, and alcohol, and eating lots of vegetables, brown rice and pulses. I was very strict with it.

‘She also gave me lots of supplements but she also discovered that I had mercury poisoning in my system which we assumed was coming from my fillings. I remembered that I had had a huge mercury filling three years earlier, so I booked into my normal dentist to start to have them removed.

‘Unfortunately I did not go to a specialist mercury-free dentist initially so no precautions were taken to prevent me inhaling or swallowing bits of mercury and after the first two extractions I was very ill. ‘

This made me convinced that it was the cause of my health problems, so I went to see a specialist dentist who put a rubber dam in my mouth to prevent swallowing bits of filling and put an oxygen tube in my nose so that I wouldn’t inhale particles either.

‘THREE MONTHS LATER I became pregnant and we had a baby boy called Adam George. I am so glad I found out about the mercury fillings because I owe my health and my baby to having them removed.’

Help and Information:

The British Society for Mercury Free Dentistry helpline: 0208 746 1177,

The British Dental Association, 0207 935 0875; website:

Becky Dutton, a former dental nurse, believes that she has had considerable health problems due to inhalation of mercury. Her website is:

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