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The Toxic Impact of Mercury Dental Fillings

When it comes to considering the wisdom and benefit of removing mercury dental fillings, Dr. C. Michael Willock, a holistic dentist practicing in Chapel Hill, is a skilled and passionate man.

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

“Toxins can seep into the body in a multitude of ways creating havoc with our health,” he points out. “But rarely do we think of the possibility of toxins residing in the mouth. Mercury is one of the most poisonous substances on the planet. There is no safe level of mercury, and amounts can slowly accumulate. It is more toxic than arsenic—and it is one of the components used in dental amalgam fillings. Mercury can directly or indirectly cause, contribute to, or make worse every health issue we will ever deal with. And mercury amalgams still continue to be used in many dental practices.”

Dental amalgam, routinely used to fill cavities for well over a century, is principally made up of mercury and silver, notes Dr. Willock. “Mercury will ‘off-gas’ continually as we chew, and this vapor is inhaled and absorbed by the body. It passes into the blood stream and attaches to the hemoglobin molecule that carries oxygen around the body to various bodily tissues and cells. Because mercury is transported throughout the body by the blood, it may settle in different organs, causing a variety of diseases. Most people are already carrying a toxic burden in their tissues from environmental pollutants and may have a genetic susceptibility to any further toxins. The added burden of mercury dental fillings may ‘push them over the edge,’ and result in autoimmune disease or other health problems.”

Addressing the Problem of Mercury Poisoning

“We see many patients who have health issues that can be directly related to their amalgam fillings,” says Dr. Willock. “When these fillings are removed, patients often tell me how much better they feel. One memorable patient, a woman in her mid-thirties, came to me complaining of toxic poisoning. She told me she was in constant pain, and pretty dramatically said she thought her muscles were dying. It’s a comment that certainly gets your attention. Further, she reported intense pressure in her head and an unrelenting fierce headache. She had been to a number of doctors, seeking relief, without success.

“She asked if I thought removing her amalgam fillings might help her regain her health. Her own research convinced her that she might be suffering from mercury toxicity. There was no guaranteed way to assure her that removing her amalgam fillings would help relieve or overcome her health problems, but I also shared with her my belief that one of the best things we can do is rid the body of as many known toxins as possible.

Mercury in Your Mouth?

Dr. Willock notes that there are many symptoms directly or indir-ectly linked to chronic mercury poisoning. The number and sever-ity of symptoms depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • How many mercury fillings you have;
  • How long you have had them;
  • How they are stimulated; and
  • How often they are stimulated.

“Mercury poisoning can mani-fest in multiple ways,” he notes, “including emotionally, in lung conditions, in oral and throat conditions, with hair loss, insom-nia, loss of sense of smell, a range of skin problems, vision problems, lung problems, neurological and mental problems, oral and throat problems, and much more.

“Removing mercury fillings is a significant health event, which deserves careful consideration of both patient and provider.”

“I removed her amalgam fillings and within several months we got good news: the patient reported that her muscles felt 85 percent back to normal and she was overjoyed to wake up in the morning pain-free. Several months later, she reported she was 95 percent better.”

Some patients inform Dr. Willock that while they have a variety of symptoms, fatigue is number one. “Many have ringing in their ears—tinnitus,” notes Dr. Willock. “I had a patient who suffered moderate tinnitus for many years. When I removed her old amalgam filling and replaced it with a temporary filling, her tinnitus dropped in half instantly—like turning off a light switch. Two weeks later, when we placed the permanent crown, her hearing improved even more. Her tinnitus is barely discernable now and I expect it to clear up completely when the other old metal crowns are replaced,” notes Dr. Willock.

He adds, “Patients who have partial crowns in their mouth, with metal foundations crowned with amalgam, can have electrical currents occurring between the metal and the mercury in the crown. This electrical current can actually be measured. When these crowns are removed, they say it’s like turning off a light switch. Their symptoms stop. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but to those that it does, I advise them to take nutritional supplements and get in the sauna to sweat the remaining toxins out.”

Removing Amalgam Fillings

Dr. Willock says that he will remove amalgam fillings simply by request—even if severe symptoms are not present. “Some patients have their amalgams taken out as a preventive measure,” he says.They’ve done their research and conclude that they want to remove the mercury from their mouth as a precautionary measure. I certainly appreciate that sentiment, and I have the patient sign a document that explains that I’m removing a serviceable restoration and cannot guarantee that their health will improve as a result of this procedure.”

This isolite completely isolates a tooth as the mercury is being removed, protecting against leakage during the process.

He explains to patients who want to remove amalgam fillings that the procedure is a significant health event, with the potential of exacerbating the toxicity problem if it’s not done carefully. “Generally, the extraction procedure is done quickly. We wear masks for protection and we can either put a rubber dam around the tooth or use an isolite, which is an instrument that’s inserted into the mouth completely isolating the tooth to be worked on. It has a double suction component on it. The patient wears an oxygen mask and a protective coat, but usually there’s not a lot of splatter because this device is wonderful, picking up everything. Once we begin extracting the amalgam, the procedure can usually be completed in minutes. If the patient is requesting the removal, we can do multiple side-by-side teeth because the patient is already numbed in that one area. They just tell us what they want—we can do them one at a time or three at a time.

“If a patient is getting mercury amalgams removed because they have health concerns, detoxing is always advisable. Buffered vitamin C is an ideal detoxifier. For someone who is in real need of detoxing, I inform them about colonics—colon hydrotherapy—or IV vitamin C or infra-red saunas.”

Traditionally trained as a dentist at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Willock is relentless in his pursuit of new knowledge on behalf of his patients. And one of his foremost concerns is understanding and responding to the impact of toxic materials on the health of teeth and the human body.