Aug 06, 2002
By Stephen Pincock
LONDON (Reuters Health)
A range of ailments that some patients attribute to mercury in dental fillings is more likely to be caused by other factors, German researchers report.
Dr. Birgit Gottwald, from the University of Giessen, said that some patient groups in Germany attribute hundreds of different physical complaints to dental amalgam, including fatigue, dizziness, lack of concentration, headache, burning sensations in the mouth and back pain.
"When you talk to groups of patients in Germany they link all sorts of disease to amalgam. I heard of a group of patients who listed 1000 disorders that can be linked to amalgam," Dr. Gottwald told Reuters Health.
She and colleagues studied 40 patients with amalgam fillings and complaints they attributed to either poisoning or allergy from amalgam, and 40 similar controls with the same number of fillings but no complaints. Their findings are published in the August issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
Participants were given a dental examination to measure the quantity, surface area and quality of their amalgam fillings, then the researchers measured the amount of mercury in their blood and urine and assessed their allergy to amalgam.
They also conducted a psychological assessment via a battery of questionnaires that assessed coping strategies, interpersonal problems, self-consciousness, depression and other problems.
Patients and controls did not differ with respect to mercury concentrations in body fluids, Dr. Gottwald said. Only one patient tested positive for allergy to amalgam, while a large number were found to be allergic to other things, such as house dust, pollen or animal hair.
"Some of...these patients...knew they had allergies not due to amalgam, but they [heard] reports in the media that something like an amalgam allergy might exist. We found that there were more likely explanations for their allergy than amalgam."
One third of patients had "psychic disorders," or "unfavorable styles of coping with stress." The researchers suggest that some of the physical symptoms may be somatizations of those illnesses.
"These patients are ill, but we don't think that they suffer from amalgam poisoning; we think they suffer from psychic disorders and allergies," Dr. Gottwald said.
The symptoms of mercury poisoning can be the same as those reported by the patients in the study, including lack of concentration, dizziness, mental symptoms and depression, she said. "But you must have a certain concentration [of mercury], and this concentration cannot be reached by inorganic mercury from amalgam."
Psychother Psychosomatics 71:4:2002,223-232.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd