I have some health conditions and am really worried that I’ll catch COVID-19. If I do, there’s a good chance I won’t survive it. I’ve been taking as many precautions as possible, but one avenue I haven’t looked at is my oral health. I recently came across an article that said there are links between mercury-containing fillings and weak immune systems. I have a few metal fillings that I’ve probably had for going on 20 years now. I’ve never given them much thought, but if there’s any chance they could be putting me at risk, I’d like to have my mercury fillings removed. Is this something dentists are doing now?
You pose an interesting question. Yes, there are some links between your oral health and immune system, but they’re probably not what you think.
No Links Between Amalgam Fillings and Immune Health Have Been Proven
Rather than expecting you to take them at their word, the American Dental Association (ADA) draws on research from:
- The Alzheimer’s Association
- The International Journal of Dentistry
- The Mayo Clinic
- The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- The National Council Against Health Fraud
- The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR – one of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)
- The New England Journal of Medicine
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
All of these organizations stand by the belief that amalgam fillings (the metal ones which contain mercury) are safe. They further contend that there is no scientific evidence to prove otherwise.
There Are Links Between Periodontal Disease and Immune System Issues
In the early stages of gingivitis, people experience symptoms like bleeding gums and inflammation. As it progresses, the gums start to separate from the teeth, creating tiny pockets bacteria thrive in. Ultimately, the localized infections cause bone loss and eventually the loss of teeth too.
It’s this—periodontal disease—that researchers have a keen eye on these days. They initially noticed people with periodontal disease were more likely to suffer from a wide range of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The inverse is true as well. In more recent years, they’ve discovered the link is probably inflammation.
“It is very important to consider the inflammatory / immune response as a whole, rather than many different modules working separately,” researchers say. They don’t think the inflammation is localized. They believe that, when one area of the body is impacted, others are reactive too. They believe the immune system is tied into this—that inflammation and immune disorder are linked. To that end, a healthy immune system relies on the treatment of inflammation. You must take care of your whole body and that includes good care of your teeth and gums.
You Can Still Have Your Fillings Replaced
At the end of the day, if having those amalgam fillings replaced makes you feel better, go ahead and have it done. It’ll be treated like a cosmetic treatment versus a medically necessary treatment by your insurance, but it’s a common procedure your dentist won’t bat an eye at. But, if you do go in for it, make sure you’re getting your teeth cleaned too!
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn, Alabama mercury-free dentist.