The Poison in Our Teeth - On Massachusetts' Limitations as a Medical Mecca - May 29, 2012
Russell: The poison in our teeth
Posted May. 29, 2012 @ 12:01 am
Updated May 29, 2012 at 1:01 AM
By Laura Henze Russell/GUEST COLUMNIST
I learned the hard way over the past year that while Boston is a great place if you need a face transplant, if you have a vexing medical condition — even one widely known in past centuries — not so much.
During the past year, I had a vexing medical problem. It led to a series of co-infections, also confounding and not properly diagnosed.
I went on to develop a systemic fungal infection, skin crawling and nerve firing sensations that were especially bad at night, allergic skin reactions and sensitivity to yeasts, gluten, corn and soy, falling immune markers, anxiety and mood swings, balance issues, dulling of hearing and smell, fatigue, finger tremors, memory issues, mental fog and neuropathy in my legs. Nearly a dozen specialists concluded I was imagining things, and it was all in my head.
Turns out, they were half right. The problem was all in my head — amalgam fillings over the years, which are 50 percent mercury. How we continue to let this poison enter and remain in people’s mouths is beyond me. We have stringent lead testing and lead paint remediation laws, a Surgeon General’s warnings on cigarettes, and instead of leading the charge to ban mercury, the ADA persecutes dentists who remove it — using strict safety protocols — from sick, suffering patients’ mouths. First, do harm?
How did I get enough mercury in me to be toxic? Let me count the ways. All eight of my molars once had amalgam fillings. They had given way to three root canals and five crowns, which involved drilling amalgam without protections and spitting out what I didn’t swallow. Many if not all still have some amalgam under them. Additionally I had two amalgam fillings in the past 10 years in upper bicuspids. A biologic dentist said my bite was heavy on my bicuspids, and I was grinding my teeth at night, which explains the worse symptoms at night. To add to cumulative exposure, when I grew up chemistry sets had mercury — it was kind of fun. I also had a mercury thermometer break when young. Then there is fish, to top off the tank. I now carry a fish mercury level wallet card, no more swordfish and tuna.
How did I get a diagnosis? I had to work the problem. It took a year, going way beyond the confines of my health plan, and the third opinion consults from numerous of the specialty disciplines in Boston’s Medical Mecca. It included an integrative doctor, a parasitologist from Arizona, a biologic dentist and my PCP’s support for not giving up hope. It was additionally confirmed by a blood test by a neurologist I saw at a teaching hospital after I developed finger tremors. Two months into a detox protocol, my blood mercury level is 40 percent above the top of normal range.
The root cause was predominantly dental material toxicity — mercury poisoning. There are only a half-dozen biologic dental practices in Massachusetts who practice safe removal for people with mercury toxicity. I began a protocol of homeopathic detox, which was markedly effective within the first two weeks in reducing nerve and skin sensations. It also includes herbs, nutritional support, lymphatic massage and diet. The biologic dentist discovered an infection deep in a facial muscle over an old root canal, and prescribed a highly effective antibiotic and two more antibiotics for another hidden infection.
Now, I am on the mend. Amazingly, some chronic health challenges are cured, my body is strong and energetic, my memory is better, I am brimming with health, and I feel like the clock has been turned back 20 years.
The AMA, ADA, Boston area doctors, dentists, medical and dental schools, teaching hospitals, and computer-aided diagnostic programs evidently consider mercury poisoning a quaint artifact of the past, as the score of doctors and specialists I saw were clueless about this as a potential cause. I ran into a woman at my church whose father, grandfather and great grandfather were physicians — she was immediately familiar with it. Because I lost much of the last year to this fiasco, I am resolved to prevent it for others.
What if I hadn’t discovered people who have gotten to the root of the problem and its causes, learned of and followed unusual treatment protocols, and paid for much of this out of pocket? The costs of treating accelerating medical, neurological, physiological, psychological, and problems in every other dimension of my body, mind, psyche and spirit are off the charts. Mercury wreaks havoc on the neurological system and the immune system, opening the door to all sorts of costly and debilitating conditions and disease from movement disorders to neurological degeneration. Multiply this by the number of boomers and older adults with aging mouths, silver smiles, and grinding teeth.
I was a very costly date in the health care system last year, both to my health plan, and to me and my family. There is no excuse for this. If we want to bring down health care costs, stop putting a poisonous element permanently in people’s mouths. It’s that simple.
The FDA convened a scientific advisory panel twice in recent years, 2006 and 2010. Both concluded that dental amalgam should not be used in children, pregnant women and hypersensitive adults. I am a poster child for the fact that mercury can cause hypersensitivity, so nobody is safe from it. We all age. The FDA has not acted and there is no timetable for action. Whatever happened to, “First, do no harm?”
It is high time to follow in the footsteps of other nations and strike up the BAND — Ban Amalgam Now in Dentistry. Pass Legislation, issue an executive order, launch a ballot initiative — whatever it takes.