MERCURY -- A Red Herring?

Regarding the on-going controversy over the use of mercury fillings in teeth, this mis-use of mercury (Hg) is a terrible problem, but it may not be the central problem. Athough mercury fillings certainly make a bad situation worse, emphasis on mercury without some clarification can cloud the all-important central fact that:


If live tissue is infected, the infection cleaned out, and the resulting open wound packed with a foreign substance, even an inert one, the wound will not heal. If packed with a foreign substance that is also very toxic, such as mercury, the situation is even worse.

Mercury, also known as quicksilver, was historically rubbed into skin by medical practitioners known as "quacksalvers", poisoning their patients and giving us the term "quack" to signify worthless medical practices. It's also the substance that made the mad hatter mad, according to one post on the HgRing on the web.

Simply stated, any dentist who implants mercury in a tooth is at a minimum, by definition, historically, classically and indisputably, a quack. (One might argue that implanting quicksilver permanently in a tooth is clearly worse than merely rubbing it on the skin, in which case the label of quack for such an absurd dental practice would be too benign.)

Unfortunately, we still don't, and may never, have a totally "safe" substance that can be packed into a wound in a tooth-bone (a.k.a. a "cavity"), i.e. there is no known filling substance that will allow the tooth-bone wound to heal. By shutting out the oxygen required for healing, any filling dooms the healing process.

If the filling substance is not quicksilver, we are technically not involved with a classical case of quackery. But implanting any type of fillings in a permanent fashion is nonetheless more invasive than the salve of the original quacks, contrary to sound physiologic and medical principles, and invariably harmful to the host.

When future generations and millenia speak of the dark ages of medicine, all will remember its darkest period, its blackest mark, its greatest shame, and will marvel at how 20th Century humanity transcended quackery and came up with a new gold standard for contra-medical wackiness -- state-of-the-art modern dentistry.

And how in the world will we ever extricate ourselves from this mess, within any reasonable time frame? There is only one discipline with all of the essential training, basic skills, equipment and organization required to bring about this revolution in medicine, human health and longevity. That discipline is ... none other than ... one and the same ... a properly refocused, state-of-the-art modern dentistry.

In 1913, the late great Charles H. Mayo said "The next great step in medical progress in the line of preventive medicine should be made by the dentists. The question is, will they do it?"

In fact, the dentists are the only ones that can do it!!

Yes, ironically, modern dentistry is both the most abominable scourge of human health imaginable and, at the same time, our only hope for correcting this deplorable situation in the forseeable future. In the spirit of this knowledge, let us applaud 1998 initiatives of both the J.A.D.A. and British Dental Journal to revive interest in the principle of (oral) focal infection, and do what we can to remove those obstacles (including political, legal, and educational) that may otherwise hinder dentistry from moving aggressively and properly in this area.

S. H. Shakman
1 December 1998

For further information, please visit:


Copyright 1998 SHShakman; all rights reserved.