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Hepatitis C and Dental Amalgam Fillings

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. June 2, 2010

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People living with Hepatitis C are usually careful to avoid placing any unnecessary toxin burdens on their liver. However, many of us harbor a hidden load of potential toxins inside our mouths – in the form of dental amalgam fillings.

Very few people can claim to have a full set of teeth untouched by cavities. After the offending tooth decay is cleared by a dentist, a majority of us have at least a couple of dental amalgam fillings to replace the void. Unfortunately, such fillings contain mercury, a known toxin. For those with Hepatitis C, a mouth full of dental amalgams could be placing an additional – and perhaps dangerously high – toxin load on their liver.

Hepatitis C and Toxins

As one of the most prevalent causes of chronic liver disease, Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. While about half of those infected with Hepatitis C can be helped with a combination of drugs, the other half must work to prevent the progression of this illness.

The liver is the primary organ involved in detoxification of the blood. Consequently, all ingested, absorbed or inhaled toxins must make their way through the liver for proper elimination. Unfortunately, a liver defending itself against Hepatitis C has a diminished detox capacity. In this instance, greater amounts of toxins circulate in the bloodstream waiting for purification, giving the poisons more time to damage liver tissue. Thus, one of the main goals for managing chronic Hepatitis C is minimizing exposure and vulnerability to toxic substances.

To reduce their liver’s vulnerability to toxins, many with Hepatitis C choose to supplement with milk thistle. For centuries, this herb has been used medicinally to help a range of liver problems. When it comes to reducing the liver’s susceptibility to damage from toxins, milk thistle has a unique characteristic of strengthening liver cell walls. This fortification of its cells enhances the liver’s ability to defend against anything that threatens to cause damage.

Dental Amalgam

Used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients, dental amalgam is a material used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin and copper. Although approximately 50 percent of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight, its strength and relatively low price still makes it a popular choice for filling cavities – regardless of whether or not the recipient has Hepatitis C.

Mercury Debate

Elemental mercury is known to release a mercury vapor that is toxic. However, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) claim that the amount of mercury measured in the bodies of people with dental amalgam fillings is well below levels associated with adverse health effects. A substantial number of healthcare practitioners across the globe disagree. Regardless of how much or how long it takes for mercury vapor to be officially deemed as dangerous, there is little doubt that those with decreased liver capacity from chronic Hepatitis C are at a greater risk of its toxicity.

Tom McGuire, DDS, a holistic dentist in Santa Rosa, CA and an expert on mercury-free dentistry, compares the body’s slow accumulation of heavy metals to the damage done by smoking. A person isn’t going to get lung cancer from the first cigarette, he says, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t worry about the long-term health risks of smoking.

“Sadly, most people don’t realize they are being poisoned by heavy metals until they have already affected their health,” claims McGuire. “Next to plutonium, mercury is the most toxic, naturally occurring substance on the planet. Even one atom of it in the body is going to do some harm. Chewing, drinking hot liquids and grinding the teeth all release mercury vapor.”

Mercury Toxicity

To confound matters even further, mercury toxicity can masquerade as a host of other ailments, so it may fly under the radar of conventional healthcare practitioners. According to Liz Lipski, PhD, an expert in dietary detox and author of Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill, 1999), “Most physicians don’t think to look at heavy metals as an underlying cause of disease. It’s just not in their training.”

Exposure to high levels of mercury may permanently damage the liver, brain, kidneys and a developing fetus. Some of the purported signs of mercury toxicity include irritability, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, memory problems, lung disorders, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, irritability, mood swings, tremors, autoimmune diseases, chronic infections, increases in blood pressure or heart rate and skin rashes. In addition, mercury competes for space in red blood cells with oxygen so it commonly leads to fatigue. The severity and scope of these ailments cover such vast ground that mercury toxicity can easily be mistaken for any number of other health problems.

Amalgam Removal

Scientists are just beginning to investigate and understand how chronic, low-level exposure to mercury vapors may contribute to chronic illnesses. Since those with liver damage from Hepatitis C may be more vulnerable to mercury, some health advocates advise protecting oneself as best as possible. For some individuals, having their dental amalgams removed may be worth considering. However, the process of removing amalgams in and of itself is known to release considerably more mercury vapors than intact fillings that are left alone. Therefore, if you choose to have your fillings replaced with a non-mercury material, make certain that your dentist follows stringent safety protocol to reduce mercury exposure.

The jury is still out on the apparent safety and toxicity of dental amalgam fillings. Regardless, many individuals choose to remove the mercury inhabiting their teeth. Supplementing with milk thistle to shield the liver from toxin exposure is another sound, toxin prevention strategy. Being aware of substances that could put a damaged liver in jeopardy is intended to help those with Hepatitis C make informed choices. The good news is that those choices typically line the path leading to optimal liver health.

References:

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts46.html#bookmark02, ToxFAQs for Mercury, Retrieved November 17, 2009, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2009.

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/heavy-metals-and-your-health.html?&page=7, Heavy-Metal Toxicity: 16 Ways to Limit Your Exposure, Retrieved November 17, 2009, Experience Life, care2.com, 2009.

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DentalProducts/DentalAmalgam/ucm171094.htm, About Dental Amalgam Fillings, Retrieved November 19, 2009, US Food and Drug Administration, 2009.

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  • thanks

  • I didn’t know that it will be dangerous to remove dental
    amalgam. Why do products should contain mercury anyway? It’s not safe in anyway
    even with a little amount.