He was the 1 out of 10 dentists.
In 1985, a dentist from Colorado, USA by the name of Hal Huggins published an infamous book. It’s All In Your Head was a collection of discredited body chemistry theories; produced by decades of exposure to dubious sources and one too many ‘body chemistry’ seminars. What ensued was a heap of patients scammed, fabricated findings, government involvement and four sheep in dire need of a dialysis. All because of that silver material dentists place into teeth.
Huggins recounts in his book how the subject of mercury toxicity first caught his attention. It was 1973 when he met a dentist at a conference in Mexico. His colleague had informed him of how the removal of silver-mercury amalgams cured illnesses ranging from leukaemia to Hodgkin’s disease to bowel disorders. Huggins had his own takeaway from the story, and soon enough he was spouting about mercury’s ‘negative electrical current’.
According to Huggins, amalgams were the cause of emotional, neurological and cardiovascular disorders among ‘sensitive’ individuals. The dentist began a nationwide crusade against the use of amalgams. Many fellow dentists followed, with clinics all over the USA using ‘mercury vapour analysers’ or ‘Amalgameters’ to convince patients to ‘detoxify’. Consultations would cost upwards of $1,000 (£689).
In 1990, an ‘anti-amalgamist’ co-authored a study featured in the magazine Newsweek. It detailed a two-month experiment involving four sheep who had lost kidney function after receiving amalgam fillings. Experts in various medical and scientific fields were quick to pan the study, but it had already swayed the public opinion.
After a year, the US Food and Drug Administration decided to step in. Their Dental Products Panel had found no reason to remove amalgam fillings. In 1993, the US Public Health Service claimed ‘no persuasive reason to believe that avoiding amalgams or having them removed will have a beneficial effect on health’. They even warned about the dangers of removing installed fillings, as it caused structural damage and even incited a $100,000 settlement between a 55-year-old woman and her dentist.
A team of dentists from Stockport note that silver amalgams have been in use for nearly two centuries. Instances of allergic reactions were few and far between, and there is no definitive link between any major illness and its use.
Hal Huggins had his dental license revoked in 1996. Small groups of dental practitioners still advocate against the use of amalgam fillings today, but with resin fillings gaining popularity, the new millennium may have rendered the entire debate causeless — and the dental community is better off for it.