Oh boy, here we go…
I’ve avoided writing about dental amalgam thus far. The reason is that this is a blog for dentists and allied dental professionals, not the general public. There is no real controversy about amalgam among the intended audience for this blog. As men and women of science, we recognize that there hasn’t been a peer-reviewed study that can convincingly state that dental amalgams are toxic to the body. None.
Although this is not a blog for the general public, it is often read by non-dental professionals and that’s fine. I have nothing to hide and I often enjoy when they share their perspectives in the comments section. But this is a subject that brings out the worst in people.
Our colleague, Dr. Alan Mead of The Blogging Dentist, wrote an excellent post, “Dr. Oz is Wrong About Amalgam Fillings” that you should check out. I guarantee that the comments section will raise your blood pressure.
I don’t want to get into the myriad of arguments presented by the anti-amalgam party. If a patient of mine wants their amalgam fillings removed because they believe they are toxic then I respect their wishes. I’ll inform them that there has not been a study to confirm this, but it’s their body and I’m happy to make them comfortable. I co-exist with people who are against amalgam.
But there is a group of anti-amalgam folks who I cannot stand. I call them the “amalgam conspiracy theorists.” These guys have gone full crazy. They actually believe that dentists around the world are a part of a massive cover-up to deceive the public. If you read the comments section of that article from The Blogging Dentist, you’ll see exactly what I mean. There are two points made by the amalgam conspiracy theorists that make me angry:
(1) Dentists are willfully trying to harm the public by placing amalgams.
(2) Dentists are greedy and placing amalgams to make more money.
Brilliant. First, if a person believes that health care professionals are actually trying to hurt their patients then that person is paranoid and delusional. It isn’t even worth discussing this point further. But the second point deserves an explanation.
Dental professionals know that amalgam is actually the least expensive way to restore a tooth. A patient needs to have decay removed from their body and we have to put something back to restore function and health. The alternatives to amalgam are composite resin fillings and ceramic inlays, both of which cost the patient more money. Dentists still place amalgam because it is the most affordable way to treat a patient and because it still works the best in certain clinical situations (e.g. challenging moisture control).
When I hear one of those two arguments I know that civilized debate will not be possible. I can have an intelligent conversation with someone who is anti-amalgam. We can exchange opinions and ideas and perhaps gain some understanding of each other’s perspectives. But this is not possible with a conspiracy theorist.
On a side note, I rarely place amalgams these days but it’s not because I’m concerned about their effects on my patient’s health. People just prefer to pay a little more for a composite resin or inlay for esthetic reasons and I can’t say I blame them. I have a mouth full of amalgam fillings and one day they will need to be replaced. I’ll probably opt for ceramic inlays and composite resin for esthetic reasons. But if my Attention Deficit Disorder suddenly clears up I’ll be sure to tell you.