Is There a Connection between IBS and Dental Fillings?
Doctors are not sure exactly what causes IBS, but researchers think it has to do with disruptions in communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, there is a strong connection between IBS and certain mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. In total, about 50 percent of IBS sufferers also experience symptoms of mental distress.1
Researchers believe that these underlying conditions might play a role in causing IBS. One recent study found that IBS is associated with central nervous system activation and pre-inflammatory processes.2
Dental fillings and health concerns
For more than 150 years, people have used “amalgam” fillings for dental work. About 50 percent of these contain elemental mercury, which can release mercury vapor that can be absorbed by the body. There have been periodic concerns raised about the health of amalgam fillings over the years, and the conversation, as well as ongoing research, continues today.3
To date, the preponderance of the evidence shows no health effects from dental fillings.
On average, people have small concentrations of mercury in their urine, amounting to less than 2 micrograms per liter (2 µg/L). Research shows very subtle changes in peoples’ biochemistry only when urine concentrations of mercury are greater than 50 µg/L for long periods. This can happen to workers, like thermometer or fluorescent light factory employees, who are exposed to mercury on the job.3
Multiple disease advocacy organizations and public health institutions have published conclusions that dental fillings are safe and do not cause disease. These include The Alzheimer’s Association, the American Dental Association, the Lupus Foundation of America, the Mayo Clinic, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Council Against Health Fraud, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research/National Institutes of Health, and the US Food and Drug Administration.3
Research findings on IBS and dental fillings
A recent study in Norway aimed to look at perceptions of health symptoms after removal of dental fillings.4 The researchers collected self-reported surveys from 324 older adults who had their fillings removed. 75 percent of patients reported improvements in symptoms, although 38 percent were still in ill-health. 17 percent reported no change or worsening symptoms. Most patients experienced tiredness and body pains. A few described heart (7 percent) or intestinal problems (5 percent).
People reported being in better health as more time had passed since their filling removal. Interestingly, people who took precautions against mercury during the procedures also reported improved symptoms. This is despite the fact that a previous case-controlled study had shown no difference between people getting fillings removed with and without precautions.
The authors state that it is possible the improved health effects are based on biological changes. But they also note it is possible that the change is due to the placebo effect. This can be especially strong when people have complicated or expensive procedures. The study also relied on peoples’ long-term memory, which can be faulty.4
It is important to conduct more studies with controls and larger sample sizes to get a handle on any link between fillings and chronic illnesses, like IBS.
Have you ever had a public IBS accident?