DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Millions of Americans have what was once called ‘silver’ fillings. They are known to contain mercury. While countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden have banned the fillings, dentists in the United States continue to use them. But one North Texas woman is hoping to change federal policy by telling her story to the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
Virginia Pritchett got her first amalgam fillings when she was about seven years-old. “They were in different areas of my mouth.”
Like most Americans, Pritchett didn’t think anything of them, but in her twenties, the once aspiring model says something devastating began to happen to her health. “At the time I had all kinds of ambition and dreams…behind the pictures, there was hell going on,” says Pritchett staring at glamorous images of her modeling days. “Hell is an understatement, it’s taken my college years, my productive youth.”
Pritchett says she developed intestinal and neurological problems…then poor immunity, vertigo and even seizures. Today, she’s so highly allergic to so many products that she rarely leaves her house. “I can’t go to a concert without getting sick from people’s perfumes. I haven’t been able to take public transportation for years. It ruined me.”
Pritchett blames the mercury in her fillings… and she blames the U.S. government for keeping the fillings on the market. “What the government has done is nothing short of an atrocity to mankind.”
In March, Pritchett testified before a Food and Drug Administration panel during a public hearing in Las Colinas. Dallas dentist Daniel Strader was also there. Dr. Strader is among many dentists nationwide asking the FDA to reconsider its stance that amalgam fillings are safe even though they contain the toxic element, mercury.
Dr. Strader began practicing in 1976 and used the fillings, but today he only removes them. He showed us the nasal hood he uses when removing the fillings from patients. It pumps safe air into the room. He uses a rubber dam to act as a safety net to catch fragments that may fall from the filling. He uses extra water to extract any remaining parts of the filling. A high-speed vacuum is used to remove the chunks. Another vacuum is used to pull away any vapors that may leak into the air from the filling. An ionizer removes any mercury in the air. And, finally, he and his assistant wear a special filtration mask so they do not inhale vapors.
“There are 60-pages of reports that show it is released from mercury fillings and it is dangerous to your health,” says Strader.
But Sunnyvale dentist Michael Stuart disagrees. Dr. Stuart is among another group of dentist nationwide saying the fillings are not harmful. “They’ve never been able to scientifically prove it’s not safe.”
Dr. Stuart is the president-elect of the Texas Dental Association. He says, of course, mercury is toxic, but he says all the peer-reviewed scientific research shows that mercury is safe when it’s mixed with the other metals that make up an amalgam filling. “It’s stable,” he says.
“I would feel safe using it in children and pregnant women,” says Dr. Stuart.
Doctor Robert Morgan is a pediatric dentist in Irving and Richardson who’s practiced more than 30-years. He agrees with Dr. Stuart. “It’s still considered the gold standard, and it’s done in dental offices all over the us on a daily basis.”
Dr. Morgan rarely uses amalgam filling today, but he says he believes they are safe. He lets his parents decide what they want for their children…and he says, parents rarely want amalgam. He says no science proves it is a problem though. In fact, he says, “decades and decades of research has not identified any cause and effect.”
But Virginia Pritchett is still convinced that mercury ruined her health. And while she stares at the beautiful pictures of her younger, healthier years, she says her story today is not a glamorous one, but it is one that needs to be told.
“I came on camera anyway…it’s a mission of mine to let people know.”
A director with the FDA at the public hearings implied that the FDA’s decision about amalgam will be announced sometime this year.