Lynchburg dentist supports use
of amalgam fillings
Editor's note: On Nov. 21 the Bulletin
began looking at the issue of the use of mercury in amalgam
fillings, focusing on the testimony of a county woman's
testimony before an FDA advisory panel on her experience with
the fillings. This week's stories take a look at one area
dentist's response, along with legislation dealing with the
issue before Congress. A future story will look closer at the
American Dental Association's stance on the claims by some
that amalgam fillings are not safe.
Michael Davis says
he's seen this all before. In fact, he states, he once thought
there might be something to claims that amalgam fillings
But now he's convinced: "There's nothing
wrong with them," he says emphatically.
Davis has been
practicing dentistry for more than 30 years. "There are
scientifically backed facts that proclaim it to be OK," said
Davis of Lynchburg during a recent interview in response to
claims made in a story featuring Marie Flowers. Flowers
testified before an advisory panel of the FDA in September
that amalgam fillings' use of mercury had created severe
health problems for her. But Davis discounts such
"The whole issue has been laid to rest I
don't know how many times," he said
The problem, according to Davis, is that
every time it pops up patients get scared. "(Someone) stirs it
up and puts doubt in all the minds of all the people who go to
He said he has patients ask questions
about amalgam fillings most every day.
"If this was a
bad thing the dental schools wouldn't teach it as a
procedure," he said.
Davis points to the stand of the
American Dental Association on the issue: "While other dental
filling materials are also available, dental amalgam remains a
valued option due to its strength, durability, affordability
and the fact that it can be used below the gum line, which is
difficult to keep dry. Dental amalgam can be placed in a wet
environment and hardens quickly, which can be critical when
working with patients such as children or people with
disabilities, who might have difficulty sitting still during
The ADA concludes: "The overwhelming weight
of scientific evidence supports the safety and efficacy of
dental amalgam, and it should continue to be made available to
dentists and their patients."
That statement was made in response to
the hearings held before a U.S. Food and Drug Administration
advisory panel in September. That panel considered several
questions on a paper presented on the safety of amalgam
fillings. Among the panel's conclusions were that the paper
had not fully explored the issue of amalgam filling safety,
voting "no" that the paper's conclusions were "reasonable"
because the evidence, according to the panel, was
contradictory with conclusions based on a limited
Davis said the panel didn't reject the safety
of amalgam fillings, but just asked for more study, something
the ADA said it welcomes.
"The more well-designed
studies that are considered, the better the pool of evidence
for making treatment recommendations to patients," stated ADA
Executive Director James B. Bramson. "First and foremost, we
want scientific evidence to lead the way when it comes to
health care treatment."
Davis has no problems stating
that amalgam fillings are safe. He said they've been used for
150 years and have proven safe. He said much of the
questioning of the fillings was raised on a news show years
ago and now, at times, makes headlines.
seems to try to keep this alive. We just can't let this go,"
Davis said. "
The alternative to amalgam fillings,
Davis said, are substances that don't last as long and cost
twice as much. He said it borders on unethical treatment to
replace amalgam fillings with an inferior material, if the
consequences are not fully explained to the patient.
provides amalgam fillings as well as alternatives, stating
that the patient should be able to have the choice, but that
the patient should base that choice on full and accurate
"I don't think people want this," he said.
"(They don't say) I want the more expensive thing that isn't
going to last as long. Who wants to sit in the dentist's
office any more than they have to.
"Do you really want
something that's not going to last as long and is going to
He said if there are true health problems
related to amalgam fillings, it comes from a very few patients
with an allergic reaction to it. That was echoed in a
statement by Milton V. Marshall, PhD, DABT, to the FDA panel,
as he explained what other panels had concluded on amalgam
safety: "The conclusion from these panels was that no adverse
health effects were associated with amalgam use other than
occasional allergic reactions."
Another doctor who testified at the
hearings concurred. "The current scientific evidence does not
support an association between dental amalgam and any adverse
health effect, except for the very small number of documented
cases involving individuals who were allergic to one of its
components," stated Dr. Amid Ismail during the
Davis said early on he recognized the claims
of amalgam fillings being unsafe as "bogus."
patients read a story on amalgam and get scared.
just trying to be a dentist, and they've read this somewhere
and they think they know more than I do," he said.
if changes are made to the laws concerning amalgam use, Davis
states: "I can tell you, the (patients) are the ones that are
going to suffer because of this."