Mercury, or silver amalgam, fillings have been linked to multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and mental disorders, but many of the 76 percent of American dentists who use these fillings don't tell their patients about the risks.
Troubled by this practice, Thomas Anderson, D.M.D., a dentist practicing in Houlton, Maine, and his wife, Pamela, recently designed a bill that would make Maine the first state to require dentist to counsel their patients on the potential hazards of mercury exposure and discuss alternative treatments and materials. Unfortunately, their bill did not pass - in large part because of vehement opposition by the American and Maine dental associations.
"They aren't denying that mercury is a toxic metal," says Pamela Anderson. "So why aren't more people worried about mercury going into our mouths?"
The Maine Dental Association does encourage its members to discuss alternatives with their patients. But requiring written consent, the association says, would imply a risk where none exists, causing patients unnecessary worry.
Still, says Anderson, it's a choice that should be left up to the individual. "Patients should be able to weigh the risks and the benefits and decide for themselves," she says. If you wan t to urge the ADA to change its position on the use of mercury fillings, call Consumers for Dental Choice, 800-510-0151. For more information on mercury fillings and their alternatives, contact the Environmental Dental Association, at 800-388-8124.