Earlier this year I had the opportunity to interview a mercury free dentist. This man has been a dentist since 1970. Like all other dentists he was originally taught to place mercury fillings and performed the practice for many years.
After pondering the use of such a well known toxin in dentistry, and then researching the question of mercury toxicity on his own, he decided to buck the status quo.
He became a mercury free dentist. His conscience would allow no other course. He made a transition from a financially secure living to one with considerably more risk.
We had a very good discussion about the various aspects of the mercury amalgam issue. Read on to gain knowledge, and hopefully understand a little better the kind of well educated, sincere, and dedicated person who becomes a mercury free dentist.
We audio taped this interview. I hope to eventually produce cassette copies to sell for a small price. When available, the tapes will be sold through CFS Nutrition.
Why does a dentist need to use a pseudonym ?
To answer that question, and to learn more about mercury dental fillings from someone in the business, lets talk to Dr. Free.
J.C.: Dr. Free, You are a mercury free dentist, how does that make you different from other dentists ?
Dr. Free: Mainly it gives patients an alternative to having mercury fillings placed in their mouth. Some dentists are in the process of using less mercury. But, in my office, mercury is not even available, and patients seek me out for that reason, they know that I don't use mercury.
Another way it makes me different than other conventional dentists, is that when patients come to me with the concept in mind of eliminating mercury from their mouth and their body, I can direct the patient to someone in the medical field to help assist them in removal of mercury from the body tissues as well as the mouth in my office.
I can direct them to someone in the medical field who can actually help them diagnose, or get a diagnosis as to whether that patient might be mercury toxic or not.
The other aspect is I've had many many hours of extracurricular training and understanding how mercury works in the body. And explaining to patients what they can do to get mercury out of the body.
All though I prefer to refer them to an informed physician for that, but having that biological basis of understanding of what is going on with mercury in human beings has been a very big help for me in communicating with patients in general.
J.C.: You have been a dentist for quite some time, and have taught dentistry at a major health sciences university, is that correct ?
Dr. Free: That's correct. I've taught at Louisiana State University in New Orleans for a couple of years, and also at a University in Oregon for three years.
J.C.: And how long have you been a dentist ?
Dr. Free: I've been a dentist since 1970.
J.C.: When did you decide to become a mercury free dentist ?
Dr. Free: Approximately 1981 or 82.
J.C.: Why did you make that change ?
Dr. Free: Well, once I understood I was dealing with something toxic like mercury, I began personally researching mercury. I had friends who were able to help me find material about mercury, and especially mercury in dentistry.
Learned a lot about mercury, and why it is toxic, and why it affects human beings the way that it does.
When I understood I was dealing with a toxic metal, it was easy to make the change, it was easy to make the change.
J.C.: Well, after you made the change to being mercury free, the patients that came back to you, and what did you tell them, the patients who had previously received mercury dental fillings from you, about your new point of view ?
Dr. Free: In 1981 I had not been in practice very long here in this state. And I had just started my practice basically. So I had not placed very many mercury fillings, fortunately, in my practice.
But, what I told those patients that I had already placed was that I had done research recently. It had been revealed to me that perhaps it was a bad idea to be putting mercury in peoples mouths.
And I told them that from that day on, I was not going to be placing any more. All of my patients were receptive to that, that concept.
J.C.: Why then aren't all dentists mercury free ?
Dr. Free: Well, several reasons: money, finances, financial reasons, politics, and lack of awareness about mercury in general.
But Let me elaborate a little bit about the financial issue. Every year there are millions upon millions of mercury fillings placed in the mouth all over this country and all over the world.
Most dental practices are setup to do mercury fillings. Most dentists and dental assistants are trained to place mercury fillings, so it is involved or incorporated in the whole practice of dentistry to such an extent that most of the production in a dental office is from the placement of fillings.
You also place crowns and bridges, but there are many more fillings placed than there are crowns and bridges. To tell a dentist to stop doing his major production procedure in his office is kind of a financial shock, number one. Although if a dentist did quit producing them, he would find other ways to do it that would be equally rewarding.
But, the profession has not been exposed in this way. We haven't been informed to the fact we could practice dentistry on an alternative level, at a profit without hurting us that way.
So, it's ingrained in the profession. It's been around for a 150 years. That's one issue.
The other issue is political. the ADA has taken such a stand against changing that every meeting that's held about mercury that involves the American Dental Association is already slanted in favor of mercury.
For instance, every research article that is reviewed is reviewed critically by the ADA, and most of the time they find faults with the research that's being done.
All the discussions are slanted in favor of mercury simply because the American Dental Association wants to continue using mercury fillings.
Because they believe they are the best, longest lasting filling material. It's cheaper than any other type of filling material, much cheaper than any other filling material.
And of course they still contend that it's safe because people aren't walking out of dental offices and dropping dead. And we've been doing this for over 150 years.
This is part of the lack of awareness or the ignorance about the biochemistry of mercury. Mercury doesn't kill people unless they get massive amounts of it, and we know about that from mercury spills in Japan and the Middle East that happened in past history.
But, the amount of mercury we are placing in peoples mouths leaks out in such small amounts that people are not dropping dead when they walk out of dental offices. So, they are not tracing the issue back to the fact that we are placing mercury and possibly creating some health problems. It is such a chronic exposure that the attention doesn't focus on it.
J.C.: What are your comments regarding the ADA's "statement of confidence" in amalgam; and their prohibition, on ethical grounds, of removing "serviceable amalgams" for the purpose of treating health problems?
Dr. Free: Well, I think that it's very defensive, on their part, on the ADA's part, because there is so much evidence and pressure right now on the American Dental Association from out side sources. Like the DAMS group and other groups, that their reaction is to force dentists who don't want to use mercury to keep using mercury.
Or to not try to dissuade patients from having mercury. And the reason for that is they don't want to lose any ground in their fight to keep mercury as the primary filling material.
J.C.: Do you think there is a liability concern there ?
Dr. Free: There is a huge liability concern for the American Dental Association because they have always stood behind mercury. In fact the history of the dental association is it was founded on the use of mercury.
The American Dental Association was a split from the American College of Dentists who were professionally trained and the American Dental Association were a group of dentists who weren't educated in formal institutions.
They decided to start using mercury and formed their own dental association.
Well, the American Dental Association now of course is comprised of dentists who are educated. But, the same philosophy which began a 150 years ago with the American Dental Association is still carried forth on the use of this material.
So, their stand is, we want to protect that right to use that filling, and we want to protect ourselves, in case it is revealed that yes, it is a toxic material and we've been promoting it all along.
I mean we are looking at the possibility of class action suits against the American Dental Association. Which may eventually come about. I don't know that, but it's possible that it could.
J.C.: It has happened in other countries.
Dr. Free: It has happened in other countries.
J.C.: But are unresolved, like Canada today.
Dr. Free: The American Dental Association has been very careful because they have classified dental amalgams such, in a way that the dentists will have to take the responsibility if in case there is ever a legal precedence here.
The American Dental Association says that the person who combines the mercury together is the person who is going to be, is responsible for that material.
So, the material is always mixed in the dental office. And, that way they absolve themselves from any guilt, because they are not producing what, they're not recommending necessarily, what goes in the patients mouth.
The mercury that's mixed in the dental office is what, there is a long involved story about this, and I won't get too technical. The American Dental Association has taken measures to protect themselves in case there ever is legal action taken.
J.C.: So, they've set it up so the dentists will be left holding the bag, so to speak ?
Dr. Free: Yes, but, I think if it ever comes down to a legal pursuit, that the American Dental Association will have to defend itself in some way.
J.C.: After more than 150 years of use, as you say, the most economical filling material for large molar cavities, do you really believe mercury amalgam dental fillings are a health hazard ?
Dr. Free: You know, as I said previously, we don't have patients walking out of our offices and everything. But, in the recent past there has been so much research done and this research is all available, is available to any dentist if they know where to call to find it, about mercury toxicity.
And especially about micromercurialism. Which is the type of mercury that we're , mercury intoxication we're getting from our dental fillings. Small amounts at a time.
We're seeing some direct correlation's in dentistry about people getting ill from mercury that's been diagnosed to be in their bodies, and to be causing problems. Our technology, our diagnostic acumen has gotten much better over the years concerning this issue.
Absolutely, after not placing mercury for 15 years and empirically seeing patients health improve over time, has convinced me.
And not to mention there is much research on the biochemical changes that occur in patients as a result of eliminating mercury from their systems.
So, yes, I do believe mercury is a health hazard.
J.C.: Do you think it is equally hazardous to the entire population ?
Dr. Free: I don't believe anything is equally hazardous to the entire population.
Certainly mercury is a toxic metal, and it will interfere with metabolism on a cellular level in any animal, including human beings. But, everybody has a different biochemical threshold for toxins in our environment, in our world.
Some people will react to a small amount of a toxic material, and other people can handle a big load of that same toxic material.
And mercury is very much like many other toxic materials. For some patients, their threshold for dealing with toxic metals like mercury is very high and with other patients their threshold could be very low.
Not to mention that, the fact that living in today's world, we're all exposed to many many different types of toxins. Mercury is only one of those types of toxins.
And so we have many levels of different toxins. And mercury may be one of the toxins that push people over the edge at one time.
Or they may have high levels of mercury in their body and something else may push them over the edge. Mercury being one of the components.
No, it's not affecting everybody at the same rate, at the same level.
J.C.: It's been argued that the economic benefit of providing affordable dental fillings to the masses actually out weighs any possible side effects of a very small number of people. I think the ADA states we have just a handful of cases of people that have shown up to be allergic to mercury, but beyond that, there really isn't any widespread [problem] , and the benefits far out weigh [those few peoples problems].
Dr. Free: Allergy is only one area that is affecting people as far as mercury is concerned. The toxic nature of mercury is much more important than the allergy nature of mercury. A person can have an allergy to almost any metal. And certainly I believe a lot more people are allergic to mercury than they are to some of the other metals.
But, the real issue in my mind is not allergy but toxicity. That is what the American Dental Association does not want to recognize, is that mercury leaking out, even in small amounts in the mouth, is a toxic situation.
So, yeah, in one way the dental association has a point. It is a cheap method of restoring mouths. However, it's not an overwhelming concept to think about changing.
Because Sweden has done it, Denmark is doing it, Germany is doing it, and they all have nationalized health insurance.And, citizens are allowed to have their mercury fillings removed in those countries if they can have some kind of diagnosis from a medical doctor.
So, while that may be a general good argument, meaning, yeah, sure it's a cheap material, the alternatives are more expensive.
It can be done, I do it every day. And I have patients from many economic walks of life. If a patient is sick and he wants to get well, we are able to provide the service, and most patients are able to afford the service.
The dental insurance industry does pay for other types of filling materials. And we have worked with many different types of dental insurance companies.
J.C.: What about the health of dentists ? Are dentists at risk from the day in and day out business of installing and removing mercury dental fillings in an open air surgery ?
Dr. Free: Absolutely. Many dentists in this day and time are removing dental fillings, old dental fillings to put new mercury fillings in.
Mercury fillings last anywhere from 5 to 30 years. So what we are doing as dentists even if we are not mercury free, we are replacing a lot of old fillings for patients.
And every time we drill those fillings out, that high speed drill will vaporize the filling and we've got all this mercury vapor floating around in our offices.
Not to mention the mercury that comes from spilling the mercury when it is being mixed and being placed in the mouth.
Traditionally most dentists use encapsulated mercury, but there has been some studies shown that even those capsules release a lot of mercury vapor as the mechanical mixing machine is mixing them.
So, yes indeed, I think most dentists are, have a very high exposure to mercury. In fact, I have two patients right now who are dentists who have been diagnosed as being severely mercury toxic. And they both have been in practice for many many years.
In fact, one of the dentists used to mix the mercury by hand. And his exposure of course was very great. Any dentist, in any dental office now, yes is, has a high exposure.
J.C.: Do you feel your mercury free practice puts you in jeopardy of losing your dental license and your livelihood?
Dr. Free: Up until the last year or two, I have felt that way from time to time.
Although I've never really let it be an overbearing thought for me, or to dissuade me from doing what I'm doing. There have been dentists across the country who have had their licenses revoked for promoting the use of mercury free dentistry.
I think one has to be very careful about what they say due to the fact this has happened. I'm very careful about the way I approach my patients. I cannot feel free to recommend to the average patient who walks in the door that they should have their mercury fillings replaced, and I never do that.
I'd like to be able to do that, but I don't do that. Because of the existing legal system I could be forced to give up my license by the state board, or by a dental association. If there was a way I could be put in a position that it made it look like I was recommending that patients have mercury removed for their better health and well being.
J.C.: Can you envision a time when all dentists will be mercury free ? And what do you think it will take to have that change come about ?
Dr. Free: Yes, I can envision a time when that will happen, because even in the last say five years I've seen many dentists stop using mercury.
A lot of the dentists have decided to be mercury free. I have been studying with several organizations, national and international organizations of dentists who don't use mercury.
And these organizations are growing tremendously. One of them being the IAOMT which is the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. Very rapidly growing association of dentists.
I know dentists locally who have just decided they've had enough, they don't want to use it any more, and they would prefer to use something that is not only less toxic, but more cosmetic, more appealing to the eye.
So, many dentists are going that route. They're saying "I'm going to do more beautiful dentistry" and I'm not going to put any of that black stuff in peoples mouths any more.
But I think the idea of the toxicity is grabbed a hold there too. Many dentists are thinking "yeah, maybe there's something to this stuff".
Because it's been getting so much more exposure in the last 5, 10 years. I think it's going to take a lot of time though. I think it still may take 10 years before something happens, unless there's a legal precedence set somewhere. And there's still the possibility for that to happen.
Otherwise, I think very slowly the profession will switch over to non- mercury filling materials.
I would like to compare it to the asbestos abatement program in the school systems. I have asbestos ceilings, or had asbestos ceilings in my garage at one time. And little did I know that it was toxic for me.
None of us knew that. There was talk about it, and over time we realized, yeah, this is, this is not something we want to be using in our homes.
I think over time, unless there is a legal precedence set, unless, there is a lawsuit somewhere, it's going to take 10 years, I don't know. It's hard to say.
J.C.: Someone is suffering from a chronic illness, experiencing what can only be described as a baffling array of health complaints and symptoms, yet they have been to all the doctors and they present no diagnosable cause of illness.
They also happen to have a mouthful of mercury dental fillings with some history with those fillings.
What do you advise such a person to do ?
Dr. Free: This is the typical patient who reaches my practice.
Up until the last five years, most of these patients couldn't even find a physician to help them. Simply because of the lack of awareness of heavy metal toxicity.
In the last five years that awareness has grown, and the education has grown.
In fact there are probably 20 or 30 physicians, both medical and naturopathic physicians in the area here, who are aware of the heavy metal toxic issue.
At this point I can now direct those patients to these informed medical practitioners where they can get a diagnosis and they can get treatment by a qualified medical practitioner in dealing with their mercury problem.
I don't try to diagnose myself. I thankfully leave that to the physicians at this point, I'm so busy doing the dentistry, that I'd rather not be involved in the diagnosing anyway.
J.C.: What if a person feels fine, but is worried about the mercury loaded into their teeth. What do you advise such a person to do ?
Dr. Free: If a person asks me that, if they ask for my advice what I usually say to that patient is that I like to treat my patients the way I would treat myself.
I would not have a mercury filling in my mouth. And that usually, that usually puts the patient in a position of thinking that they probably don't want to have mercury in their mouth, that they would like to have it removed.
While I can't tell the patient they should have it removed, I tell them what I think I would do as a patient.
It's kind of a catch-22 situation when I say something like that naturally the patient is going to start thinking about it. But, I want them to think about it.
J.C.: A lot of people have the, kind of, change them as you go approach.
"Well, I'm not feeling like I'm having a health problem from mercury today, but sure don't want any more, and when these ones go bad, I'll have them put something else in. "
Is that a good strategy ?
Dr. Free: That is a good strategy.
I have many patients in my practice who still have quite a few mercury fillings. And as the old mercury fillings wear out, we replace them with a non-mercury alternative.
Many patients who come here, aren't aware I'm mercury free. I explain to them that I'm mercury free.
Usually the patients suggest to me, that as my old fillings wear out, doctor will you just replace them with a non- mercury material. By and large that's what I do with my patients.
J.C.: How does a person find a mercury free dentist near where they live?
Dr. Free: There is a public relations firm that they can call, it's called Bioprobe, they are in Orlando Florida, the phone number is area code 407-290-9670. (Bioprobe does not do public relations, nor do they do dentist referrals after all - J.C. 12/5/98)
There are other organizations one is called the D A M S group or DAMS group, which means dental amalgam mercury syndrome.
(DAMS national address and phone number are:
Have not personally tested this address, but know the phone number reaches a DAMS representative. - J.C. 12/5/98)
Every state has one, has a chapter now. Some of them are listed in the phone book. I don't know that this can be researched in every case. I don't have a central number for DAMS at this time. But there are usually local chapters of DAMS groups in every state.
J.C.: So just look in the phone book, and search on the web and see what you can find ?
Dr. Free: Yeah, the web is an excellent source for obtaining information in the last 5 years. The amount of exposure has really grown there too.
J.C.: I find someone who claims to be a dentist, and of course the ADA has made me quite concerned that there is a lot of scam artists out there just to make a quick buck by taking them out.
How can a person be certain that a dentist claiming to be mercury free is sincere about the health risks of mercury, and is taking all available precautions during amalgam removal ?
Dr. Free: Basically, you can ask your dentist how long he has been mercury free. Ask him some philosophical questions about why he's not using mercury.
We have had some patients come to us after some negative experiences about having mercury removed in some offices who weren't really dedicated to a mercury free environment.
And the patients weren't protected well when they had the mercury removed. And consequently had some exposure during the removal process.
All of that can be avoided by following proper protocol.
There are several things that can be done. I mean, they can again, call Bioprobe or the DAMS group that I mentioned previously, and ask them if they have a list of dentists in their area. That would be probably the safest bet.
J.C.: Would there be a couple of things that would be hallmarks in terms of the protocol, that you would like to mention ?
Dr. Free: Yes, Yes, namely the use of a properly placed rubber dam. Rubber dam is a piece of square rubber that has holes punched in it by the dentist. It's placed over the teeth that are being treated, so that only the teeth stick out through the holes.
And this rubber keeps the patient from swallowing any of the mercury as it's being removed. It's very important to have this rubber dam properly placed on the tooth.
We were taught this in dental school, but we quickly threw it out when we got out of school because it was so much trouble. But it is easy to place if the dentist takes their time in doing it . And doing it properly is really important so it doesn't leak.
Giving the patient oxygen is also very helpful. Every [mercury free] dental office is equipped with oxygen in rooms, and the patient should be given oxygen while the removal process is going on.
J.C.: Is that just to have a different source of air ?
Dr. Free: Yes. Also, a room cleaning, or an air purifier, a device that will clean the air immediately around the patient and doctor is also very important.
And, we use a scavenging system, that involves the use of a box that contains a vacuum cleaner type motor with several filters with a flexible hose that sits right by the patients face as we're removing the mercury, and that further sucks out all the aerosol of mercury that's produced when the high speed drill begins removing that.
So, those three things are the most important: the use of the rubber dam, fresh source of oxygen, and a scavenging system of some type.
J.C.: What role does nutrition play in preventing and recovering from mercury toxicity ?
Dr. Free: Research over the years has gotten very specific about the types of foods and nutritional products that can help remove mercury from the body.
Mercury has an affinity for sulfur molecules. Foods containing sulfur, and nutrients containing sulfur are highly recommended.
For instance, a diet high in the consumption of eggs is very important, and of course if you have a high cholesterol problem, you have to watch consuming food like that. Eggs have a lot of sulfur in them and so they attach to mercury, the sulfur does.
Garlic is another food source for sulfur. Very high in sulfur.
Some of the algae, like chlorella are also very high in sulfur.
Nutritional supplements like selenium, and glutathione are also, they also have an affinity for mercury.
So there are many supplements like that that can be used by the average patient to help, to pull mercury out.
This happens long term, it doesn't happen immediately. It may take several years for some patients.
The patient may be better off by consulting with their physician about, an informed physician, about what products to eat and what nutritional products to consume to remove mercury.
J.C.: Dr. Free do you have a recommended reading list for people who want to get more technical information and maybe more details on topics we talked about today ?
Dr. Free: Yes, there is an amazing accumulation of information both in research articles and in text books now. And I'll list a few here, I'll let you know where you can find these.
One is called "It's All In Your Head" which is a book by Dr. Hal Huggins who spearheaded a lot of the research in mercury diagnosis in this country.
Another book is called "Infertility and Birth Defects" which is written by Sam Ziff and Dr. Michael Ziff.
A third book is called "Mercury Toxicity From Dental Fillings" by Joel Taylor.
Another is called "The Toxic Time Bomb" by Sam Ziff.
Another is called "Mercury Poisoning From Dental Amalgam" by Patrick Stortbecher.
Another is called "The Law and Mercury Free Dentistry", an excellent source for dentists who are, wish to eliminate mercury from their practice, concerning the legal aspects of protecting yourself.
Another book is called "Dentistry Without Mercury" by Sam Ziff, and lastly we have "Chronic Mercury Toxicity, New Hope Against an Endemic Disease" by H.L Queen.
All these books are available through Bioprobe, the same company that I listed earlier.
J.C.: Do you have any final comments ?
Dr. Free: No, that about covers it.
J.C.: I really want to thank you for taking time
to share your insights, experiences, and knowledge. I sincerely
believe many people stand to benefit from what you have told
us here today.