County woman crusades against
mercury in dental fillings
|Honoree Roger Cheek and outgoing Bedford
Mayor Tom Messier chat during Saturday's event.
Editor's note: This story is the first
in a series looking at the issue of amalgam fillings. Today's
story looks at an area woman's testimony before the FDA
against the use of amalgam fillings. Next week's story will
look at the ADA's response and explore the issue
Like many area residents, Marie Flowers of
Stewartsville visited the Bedford County Administration
building last week to talk to county officials about her real
And while the recently completed county
reassessments have set off the passions of many county
residents, it was another conversation that Flowers had that
day that ignites her true life passion.
Flowers wore a
button about mercury fillings. Another Bedford County resident
noticed the button and said to her, "Oh I thought they didn't
use mercury in dental fillings any more. I thought the amalgam
now didn't have mercury."
Flowers, however, set the
"I told her that amalgam means 'mixed
with mercury.'" Flowers said. "I wonder what dentist has been
telling her falsehoods? She knew the word amalgam. She said a
tooth had broken and she was tasting metal right then and had
been having memory problems for a couple
Flowers referred the woman to her Web site,
www.mercurypoisoned.com, and told her where she could find a
That, in a nutshell, describes the
life mission of Marie Flowers, a mission that this past
September took her before an advisory panel of the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration investigating the mercury filling
Flowers said she received her
first amalgam fillings in her molars when she was 12 years
old. By the time she was 46 she had 11 mercury fillings.
Those fillings, she claims, eventually
led to some severe health problems she has
"It took 34 years to experience my first
neurological symptom, an occasional numbness in my face, from
the mercury," Flowers testified before the
Flowers said she told her dentist about the
numbness in her face, but he continued to put in and take out
mercury fillings "all the time allowing me to breathe mercury
vapor," she said. "I thought they were just silver
She admits her dentist didn't do anything
wrong. "He didn't violate the Standards of Care in dentistry,"
she said. She said most don't use respiratory protection for
In early 2001 she developed a drooping
face (Belle's Palsy). She believes it was caused by mercury in
her peripheral nervous system. She was put on prednisone,
which Flowers said lowers the immune system.
In July of
that year while on vacation, she had a tooth with an amalgam
filling crack off. A local dentist patched the tooth until she
could get home and get a crown. "I immediately started tasting
metal because of oral galvanism from the patching material,"
she told the panel.
The net result was that because
dissimilar metals were put together it caused a battery-like
effect, forcing mercury to leak out of the filling at a faster
rate, Flowers claims, adding "It commonly causes a metallic
That, she said, meant she was absorbing more
mercury vapor than ever. She said she didn't realize the
metallic taste was a symptom of mercury toxicity, and her
dentist didn't either. "Metallic taste is listed right there
on the Materials Safety Data Sheet for the amalgam capsule as
a mercury toxic symptom," she told the panel.
her dentist fit her tooth for a crown, by drilling more than
usual, and left in some of the mercury filling and the
That led to more of an increase in
metallic taste. She said mercury started leaking out of that
tooth, leaving a blue line at the base of the tooth, called
"an amalgam tattoo." The gum swelled.
Soon after Flowers said she felt movement
in her brain. That soon led to a tingling at her scalp and a
headache. Nine days after the drilling, Flowers said her
entire "brain was on fire."
"I was having these
electrical shocks from the top of my head to the tips of my
toes," Flowers said. She describes the feeling like her brain
was vibrating inside her skull and it wanted to jump out. She
said Multiple Sclerosis doctors call her experience
Lhermitte's phenomena. "I call it mercury hitting the brain,"
Flowers said she became allergic to foods.
She said she had chronic fatigue, visual disturbances,
tingling in her hands and feet and she became dizzy and
confused. "I lay in bed for hours with a healing pad on my
aching muscles," she testified.
Flowers said she was
angry and paranoid, and suffered memory loss.
Sunday morning I woke my husband up at 1 a.m. and screamed at
him for an hour, begging him to help me figure out what to do
next," she added.
She showed symptoms similar to
She said she was eventually tested for heavy metals
using a urine challenge test. The test didn't reveal high
levels of mercury, but she said the problem is those tests
measure how much mercury she was able to excrete, not how much
was in her brain and organs.
"Those who are poisoned by
mercury are often poor excretors of mercury and may not be
able to excrete very much in the urine. That is why we are
poisoned," she said.
Flowers said she had her fillings
safely taken out, but mercury remains on her brain because it
takes 27 years to remove the mercury completely.
said she's never had a metallic taste or nausea again after
her crown was removed and the mercury was taken out of her
While not healed, Flowers said she has
experienced recovery by taking medication called DMSA, which
helps her detoxify the mercury that remains. And now she's on
a mission to inform others about her claims.
Flowers is an activist on the issue of problems
being caused by mercury-based dental fillings. In addition to
her testimony before the advisory committee she also pickets
governmental and private organizations that fail to respond to
Following the hearings, the September
panel rejected the FDA's decision that mercury fillings are
safe, and stated more research was needed. The American Dental
Association maintains the fillings are safe, but in a recent
statement the ADA said it welcomes future research on the
Flowers hopes that the use of mercury fillings
will be banned for pregnant women and children. Children, she
said, have less ability to detox mercury and mercury crosses
the placenta in pregnant women.
"The bigger you are
it's possible it would harm you less if your detoxification
pathways are adequate," she said.
And she's hoping to
get her message out.
"People are not really being
informed," she said. "They think of it (amalgam fillings) as a
cosmetic thing, (that) it's just a silver filling."
she said, their insurance will only pay for those
Fillings, if removed, must be done so safely,
Flowers states. "Don't go out and have the fillings removed.
Do the research first," she said. "They need to find a dentist
who will do it safely."