Teeth Clenching Can Release Too Much Mercury

Recently the Berkeley City Council heard testimony about a proposed ban on mercury amalgam dental fillings. A young man named D— M—, shown in the video, told the Council that he had grown up in Berkeley and had gotten mercury amalgam fillings from local dentists. They did not tell him the fillings were dangerous. He attended Berkeley High, Harvard, and finally the clinical psychology program at UC Berkeley — which I know is extremely hard to get into, as he says. They accept about 1 in 500 applicants.

In 2007, three years into the program, he started clenching his teeth. He began to have problems resembling mercury poisoning, such as fatigue and poor concentration. He had to leave the psychology program. Hair tests showed large amounts of mercury. He did not eat unusual amounts of fish, so it’s likely that his fillings were the source of the mercury. By 2012, he could no longer work and pay rent.

I had no idea that teeth clenching and mercury fillings were so dangerous together. A few years ago, I found, to my surprise, that removal of mercury fillings improved my score on the reaction time test I use to measure brain function. At first, I had thought the improvement had other causes. Only when I tested these causes and found no supporting evidence did I look further and discover the improvement had started exactly when I got my fillings removed. After I discovered this, I looked around for other evidence that mercury fillings were dangerous. To my surprise (again), my evidence seemed more persuasive than anything I found. M—‘s story is much scarier than mine and supports my conclusion that mercury fillings are dangerous.

Had M— been using my reaction-time test day after day, he might have discovered deterioration on that test before he noticed other problems. The test might have provided early warning. I hadn’t noticed problems with concentration or fatigue, yet when my fillings were removed I got better on my test. Had M— noticed the problem earlier, he might have figured out the cause earlier.

If you don’t monitor yourself as I do — and almost no one does — you are trusting your dentist, your doctor, your food providers, and so on, to be well-informed and truthful about the safety of their products. If the problems aren’t obvious, there is plenty of reason for them to put their hands over their eyes and say “I don’t want to know” about problems with their products. Drug companies have often hidden the dangers of their products and surgeons have hidden the dangers of their procedures. Few people grasp that “evidence-based medicine”, with its disregard of bad side effects, is biased in favor of doctors. (Ben “Bad Science” Goldacre is a prominent example of someone who fails to understand this.) If you monitor yourself you are less at the mercy of other people’s poor science, lies, and motivations that conflict with finding and telling the truth.

13 Replies to “Teeth Clenching Can Release Too Much Mercury”

  1. I’m so glad to see you take Goldacre to task on this, I completely agree. I remember when I was reading Bad Science that there was this footnote acknowledging that, in truth, no drugs could ever be determined to be safe for everybody but that one would essentially be wasting their time worrying about that (or something to that effect). I remember being like “What?!?”, and quickly jotting a note in the margin. The fact that randomized trials cannot actually “demonstrate” any drug to be safe is missed by most (it’s statistically and logically impossible to show that something is no different than placebo, which is essentially what “demonstrated to be safe” means).

  2. I should also say that I think Bad Science is by and large a decent book… Goldacre just doesn’t always seem to understand that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  3. Jay S. Cohen wrote an interesting book called, Overdosed. He makes the point that there is a large amount of variability in how individuals respond to drugs. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to admit that this variability exists — because, at the very least, it complicates dosing issues. Cohen advocates “start low, go slow” when starting a drug regimen. (I think the book is out of print now, but used copies are still available.)

  4. Mark, did you mean Bad Pharma (rather than Bad Science)? Bad Pharma is Goldacre’s recent book, Bad Science is an older book. I agree, Bad Pharma is a decent book. I hope that someday Goldacre will realize there are big problems with the rest of medicine as well, problems less obvious than high prices.

  5. For years I’ve joked that Americans’ lifespan is shorter than (for example) most West Europeans’ because Americans spend far too much time at the dentists. Correlation and cause?

  6. At least according to Joseph Mercola articles sympathic to “biological dentistry” or “holistic dentistry”, removing mercury amalgam fillings has its own set of dangers (release of large amounts of mercury into the body all at once)! In addition to monitoring one’s symptoms of merrcury poisoning (a la Seth), I wonder if there is a way to also monitor the extent of the increase or decrease of mercury in the body after removing the filling. Scary….

    1. “Safe amalgam removal”. I monitored myself before and after the amalgam removal and saw no change. This shows that the amalgam removal had been done safely.

  7. Nice article. We all know Mercury is a dangerous b/c it is a neurotoxic. What you may not know is that it is lipophilic so it stores likes to store itself in fat stores. Since the human brain has a lot of fat the Hg can go there.

    “Silver dental fillings” contain up to 50% Hg. Of course this does not affect everyone as we all have different toxic sensitivities. This is also influenced by your total toxic load

    This is a treatment that dates back to around the time of the US Civil War.

    Dentist I know, tell me the fear among the ADA seems to be big lawsuits like Tobacco & Asbestos IF the truth came out

  8. Here is some scientific research.

    For example, a peer-review study published in 2005 by the Freiburg University Institute for Environmental Medicine found that

    “mercury from dental amalgam may lead to nephrotoxicity [kidney poisoning], neurobehavioural changes, autoimmunity [autoimmune disease], oxidative stress, autism, skin and mucosa alterations or non-specific symptoms and complaints,”

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