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861 Willow Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: (919) 942-2154
A holistic approach to oral health and wellness.

Are Mercury Amalgams Harmful
to Your Health?

Dr. C. Michael Willock answers that question is two ways: “Mercury amal-gams are, by definition, unhealthy—they’re poisonous. And, because they leak from the moment they’re put in, over time they are likely to be harmful overall. But the important part of the question is: ‘are they harmful to your health?’ There are risks associated with removal of amalgams and, ultimately, their potential for harm must be evaluated on an individual basis.”

Dr. Willock examines an amalgam filling, which, over time, has cracked and fractured, due to constant expansion and contraction.

Dr. Willock’s perspective on this issue is not that of a typical dentist. He practices holistic dentistry—an approach that acknowledges that dental health and overall health are inextricably linked and pro-foundly impacted by toxins in the environment. In addition to his traditional dental school studies at UNC in Chapel Hill, he has—over many years— completed extensive training through the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and studied environmental medicine at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.

Impact of Environmental Toxins

“My additional training has been an eye-opening experience,” he says. “I’ve known for a long time that we all live in a highly toxic environment and my study of environmental medicine took that knowledge to another level. We studied in-depth the impact on our bodies of such heavy metals as mercury and nickel and cadmium—metals used in dentistry—and spent a lot of time studying effective ways to detoxify the body.

“I have also learned—first-hand—the importance of individual genetic concerns when considering the impact of amalgam fillings. Some people are more sensitive than others to the toxic effects of mercury leakage—and clearly, I am one of those people. Growing up, I was anemic and under-weight, and chronically tired—all of which cleared up when my amalgam fillings were removed.” Removing his amalgam fillings, Dr. Willock reports, not only restored his energy and his health, but fueled his interest in holistic dentistry.

Removing Amalgams: A Careful Choice

Dr. Willock emphasizes that while there is no question that amalgam fillings are a health hazard, there are questions about if and when to remove them—questions that must be answered with the individual patient in mind. Removal requires careful consideration by both patient and provider, weighing their health impact against the risks involved in removal.

“It begins with understanding the health risks,” he notes. “Over the years of chewing and thermal cycling, there’s an accordion effect that eventually cracks the teeth. And, over time, amalgam—which is principally made up of mercury and silver—gets brittle and, from the day it is placed, begins to leak. Remember: mercury is the second most toxic element on the planet after plutonium.

“In addition,” he points out, “there are problems with mixed metals in the mouth. Mercury and silver, for example, are positive ions that repel each other, like two common poles of a magnet, creating out-gassing. And if you also have gold in the mouth—something that is not uncommon— problems occur because of electro-magnetic currents generated by the different metals; further, mixed metals in an acid or alkaline solution create a chemical reaction in the mouth that may be linked to deterioration of health.”

Mercury poisoning can manifest in multiple ways, Dr. Willock explains, “including lung conditions, oral and throat health, hair loss, insomnia, loss of smell, a range of skin problems, vision problems, neurological and mental problems, and much more.”

But Are They a Problem for You?

Health problems can be tricky to assess, since many times the amalgams don’t start causing problems for years. Thus, Dr. Willock considers many factors in whether or not to remove amalgam fillings: are they serviceable and in good shape, or are they deteriorating? Are they bothering the patient? What health factors are driving interest in removal?

“Typically, my patients understand the relationship between toxic amalgams and over-all health,” observes Dr. Willock. “They have often done their research on the Internet and usually have other health concerns that bring them here. But my role—for the informed patient or for the person newly aware of the toxicity of amalgams—is to work with them to under-stand any conditions that may be affected by having mercury on board.”

This awareness is key so as not to aggravate an existing condition, he explains. Dr. Willock may also ask a patient to visit their physician to be tested for heavy metal toxicity as part of an evaluation. If the results are positive, the physician may recommend the fillings be removed as well as a broader detoxification plan.

Removal is an Art: What to Expect

Removing amalgam is a significant health event, with the potential of exacerbating a toxicity problem if not done expertly. Dr. Willock is one of the few dentists in the area who has had extensive training in the safe removal of amalgam fillings.

“We take great care at every step of the process of removing mercury-amalgam fillings,” he explains. “Unfortunately, an untrained dentist will simply use hand pieces to remove a mercury-amalgam filling—which is a problematic approach.

“Our approach is much different—and frankly, much safer. First, we use a small plastic containment device that goes over the tooth where the filling will be removed. It serves to contain the filling substance during the removal process.

“At the same time, we put a rubber dam on the tooth, to provide further protection. And we put an oxygen mask on the patient so they are breathing clean, pure oxygen during the entire removal process. Staff people are protected in the same way, and I use a mask during the process. There is also an excellent high-level air filtering system in the space we use for this procedure.”

Recognizing that the health of the mouth is linked to the health of all parts of the body, Dr. Willock often finds that removing metal amalgams may only be the first step in a detoxification support plan. That plan might include buffered vitamin C or IV vitamin C, colon hydrotherapy, and infrared sauna to help support removal of additional systemic toxins.