Mercury fillings cause teeth to crack. Says Dr. Markus, "there is a reason mercury is used in thermometers - it expands at slight changes in temperature. So when you thermocycle a material that doesn't come close to the thermal properties of a tooth (say you're drinking coffee with your ice cream, or iced tea with your baked potato), is it any wonder these fillings can cause teeth to crack, like a full bottle of water left in the freezer?"
Remember when you were a kid, and a trip to the dentist meant a dip into the Treasure Chest for a sparkly ring or a tiny plastic puzzle? It also usually meant a big silvery filling. But more and more we are finding that silver should be wrapped around your finger, not embedded in your teeth.

As kids, our parents took us to the dentist without a second thought to the composition of our fillings. The dentist said you had a cavity and it had to be filled. Mercury amalgam was the filling of choice, so case closed. Imported from Germany to the US in the 1850s, amalgam is a combination of liquid mercury, powdered silver, tin and copper. Back then, the term 'silver filling' was deliberately misleading because the compound was more than 50% mercury, an element used by milliners (aka hatters). The hatters worked in confined areas and their exposure to the mercury fumes for extended periods caused irrational behavior, which became known as Mad Hatter disease. To this day, when used to fill a person's tooth, its vapor is released into the lungs, the brain - in fact, every organ system in the body - for a long, long time.

The International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT) is an alliance of dentists, physicians and researchers involved in the study and education of biocompatible materials and whole-body patient health. The group staunchly advocates banning amalgam, and is adamant that proper protocol must be followed when removing these fillings to assure the safety of the patient and dental staff.

Through its research, the IAOMT and many other scientists have linked a number of health problems including depression, fatigue, tremors, autoimmune reactions, kidney problems, antibiotic resistance and possibly Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's.

Most American dentists have been educated that any leftover mercury fillings have to be carefully stored in sealed containers and the material becomes inert once placed in the mouth, but that is not the case. Why such an emphasis on safe storage if it is safe in an American's mouth? Wouldn't that mean Americans' saliva stabilizes it? And if that's true, why couldn't the scrap be safely stored in American spit?

"The real issue," clarifies Dr. Stephen Markus, DDS, of the Centre for Dentistry in Haddon, "is educating people about the toxicity of mercury. Most dentists need to be retrained to understand these issues, and learn the protocols for safe removal of the amalgam fillings already in the patients' mouths."

And Dr. Markus has put his money where his mouth is, undergoing exhaustive training to become a "mercury-safe" dentist. He is also dedicated to continuing education in the field, and is passionate about this facet of his practice. And he owes it all to a higher authority: his mother! It was a letter she sent him in 1990 - which included an article on the subject from the New York Times - that first alerted him to the dangers of mercury. And her somewhat subtle action ended up contributing to a dramatic change in her son's dental practice.

"That article," says Markus, "cited an experiment conducted by the University of Calgary in which pregnant sheep were given amalgam fillings. The amalgam-derived mercury appeared in all of the sheep's organ systems, and in much higher concentrations in their brains and wombs."

Randall Moore is a researcher and documentarian. His company, Do No Harm, LLC, is currently producing a documentary entitled, "You Put What in My Mouth?" He points to a ground-breaking new policy put into force by New York University's College of Dentistry. "They have recently announced a new amalgam policy to its students which says that NYU will now recommend non-mercury fillings as the primary posterior tooth restorative plus NYU will no longer require students to perform competency examinations for amalgam, nor will NYU allow amalgam use in its clinics unless students obtain faculty permission for a specific case. These measures take NYU closer to the ultimate goal of becoming amalgam-free."

Moore's documentary follows the lives of four people struggling to inform the federal government, the general public and dentists of the extremely large amounts of mercury vapor and the human after-effects during the making, placement, polishing and removal of mercury amalgam dental fillings.

Especially telling is this story Moore relates, "I'd hired an employee from a local hazmat company to run a device during the shoot. The device measures mercury vapor released during all aspects of amalgam placement and removal. As soon as he started to see the types of levels associated with these routine dental procedures, he went out to his truck to get his hazmat suit (at that point he only had on his respirator)."

As a mercury-safe dentist, Dr. Markus relates, "In 1997, we were the first dental office in New Jersey to have a device that prevents even the smallest particles of mercury from leaving the building and burdening waste treatment centers. The NJ EPA has now made them mandatory.

"We also take measures to prevent any amalgam residue from being ingested or absorbed by our patients during the removal procedure. And because we treat our patients holistically, we'll refer those who need it to like-minded MDs to assist with removal of these toxins from their bodies."

Dr. Markus has appeared before the FDA three times, in an attempt to mandate tighter controls over the capricious manner this toxic substance is dealt with by the ADA and the FDA. His appearances are on YouTube and can be linked to from his website.

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Stephen J. Markus, DMD
The Center for Dentistry of Haddon

Randall Moore
Do No Harm, LLC