A story worth chewing over. Do your fillings contain high mercury levels?

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By Deb Derrick

At the age of 57, I’d been on low levels of blood pressure medicine for years with good results. However, my blood pressure had begun to rise. It would take four years, a pack of doctors and a nutritionist to find a likely cause for this issue.

I stripped red meat and dairy products from my diet. I drank sludgy mixtures of berry juice and flax seeds. And I called a nutritionist.

My nutritionist Julie Wendt had me record every morsel I ate for a week and ordered mobile blood and plasma tests. The report that followed was inscrutable. Full of diagrams, arrows and nutritional markers. My diet and health were pretty good. However, I had one big problem: my blood-mercury level was exceptionally high.

“Did I have amalgam fillings?” my nutritionist asked.

Indeed, I did.

I’d always thought of my old fillings as silver. In actuality, they and all “silver” amalgams are about 50% mercury. I had highly toxic metal in my mouth.

My amalgams were installed in the late 1960s. In

1990, 60 Minutes aired a pro- gram with anecdotal evidence that amalgams might cause serious health issues. The American Dental Association fought back, insisting that the amalgams’ mercury did not leach out in any substantial or harmful way. They’ve held to that line ever since, even as dentists in our country began to shy away from using amalgams.

My blood-mercury level in that first test was 10.29 mcg/L, 77% over the EPA’s presumed safe level of 5.8.

My nutritionist said that long-term exposure to mercury is associated with cardio- vascular issues. Hypertension known to damage humans’ renal and central nervous systems is one effect. According to my nutritionist, the two largest sources of mercury exposure are seafood and dental amalgams. She suggested I have my amalgams removed.

I balked. Removing the fillings would cost me several thousand dollars. It might damage my teeth. Plus, the FDA’s website says there’s little evidence of health benefits from amalgam removals. The actual removal might expose patients to more mercury.

I decided to stop eating deep-sea fish as a start- ing point. A month later, my blood-mercury was 6.53 mc- g/L. Still too high.

My nutritionist pressed me again to take my fillings out. I dug into studies on amalgams and mercury exposure. There’s much controversy here, but it’s known that dental amal- gams emit mercury vapors which are absorbed through the lungs. It’s been shown that mouth-vapor levels rise with the number of one’s amalgam surfaces. Vapor levels also rise after drinking hot or acidic beverages. I drank hot tea with lemon every morning.

The day-to-day levels of mercury vapors and their ab- sorption rates are contested. One 1995 Canadian study suggested that adults with more than four amalgams were likely being over-exposed. The study was quickly and robustly attacked. There’s also limited data proving or disproving dental amalgams’ connections to specific diseases.

I finally decided to have my fillings out after reading that the cadavers of people with numerous occlusal amalgam surfaces had much higher mercury loads in their brains and kidneys than those with few or none.

I was referred to a dentist trained in the safe removal of mercury amalgams. I was nervous the day of the procedure. I knew I’d have a temporary bump in my mercury load. Studies suggested that I’d see a 60 to 70% reduction in my blood-mercury within three months.

Before starting on the removals, the dentist had me swish black charcoal water around my mouth. She put on a neck-to-toe protective gown. She tucked a wad of charcoal under my tongue and placed a rubber dam across my mouth, to catch stray amalgam shards. She put an oxygen tube in my nose, turned on an air vacuum and started drill- ing. Three hours later, she’d removed seven mercury amal- gams and replaced them with white composites. I took off my protective gown, did a final charcoal-water rinse and drove myself home.

Waiting for the results felt like forever. Friends who knew my saga kept asking if the amalgam removals had actually reduced my mercury levels. In mid-March, I got my answer. My blood-mercury was 1.05 mcg/L, 84% lower than my pre-removal level.

I’d been reducing my mercury levels for nearly a year. Over the same time span, my systolic blood-pressure dropped about 20 points. I can’t tie this directly to my mercury mitigation, of course, but the Journal of Clinical Hypertension calls the “association between mercury toxicity and hypertension convincing, and recommends mercury test- ing for anyone with high blood pressure or vascular disease.”

I’m delighted to have drastically lowered my blood-mercury level and grateful beyond measure to Julie Wendt.

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