A Few Suggestions About Mercurial Fillings For Teeth

by William P. Wesselhoeft, MD. Boston, MA.

printed in the International Hahnemannian Association Trasnsactions, 1896, pages 200- 209

Early in the sixties [1860s--ED] I had my first practical experience with these fillings. A middle aged woman doing housework in a neighbor's family asked me to cure a sore tongue from which she had been suffering several months. On examination I found a gouged out ulcer on the left side of the tongue, which lay against, and partially around a molar tooth. This tooth had been filled and built up with a grayish, glistening mass and had done good service for nearly eight months. In those days lunar caustic was the proper thing to touch all ulcers with, which would not heal, and she had been cauterized several times, each time leaving the ulcer in a worse, and more painful condition than before. I treated her as carefully as I knew how at that early period of my professional experience, but without any apparent change in the very sore tongue. After six weeks of treatment I persuaded her to have the tooth drawn, which she very reluctantly consented to, and I accompanied her to the dentist's chair the same day.

The tongue was thickened, the edges of the ulcer felt very hard to the fingers, and the pains were often sharp darting, but she complained chiefly of soreness which made eating, and talking even, painful. I suspected malignant disease.

The removal of the tooth was soon followed by improvement, and in a very few weeks the tongue was healed.

I firmly believe the ulcer was caused by the contact with the filling. Some people may disagree with me and exclaim post hoc ergo propter hoc. The woman, however, got well after the removal of the cause whatever that may have been in the minds of other people.

The second instructive case occurred in 1883. A young man twenty-four years old had to leave his studies on account of inveterate dyspepsia. He was taken to Europe after having finished with all sorts of drugging in this country, and went through the usual Carlsbad cure, where he only grew worse, and then was sent to Ragatz " to build up on the waters and the Swiss altitudes. " He did not build up at all, but instead his stomach caused him more and more pain. When he came to me the main symptoms were as follows-- Dull aching pain in pit of stomach, extremely sensitive to touch and pressure of clothing; Is usually relieved for a short time after eating; continual raising of gas, which gives only temporary relief; worse sitting up, better lying flat on back; General times of aggravation between l0 and 12 a.m.., and again after 4 p.m.; Great aggravation from cold drinks.

This case I treated for over a year with what is usually called success, so that he could take up his studies again after a few months. Nevertheless, there remained constant recurrences of the old symptoms. One day he came in and asked me to look at his throat, as he had felt alternately cold and hot with intense pain on swallowing. When I looked into his throat, I saw a very decided follicular tonsilitis, but what interested me much more, was about two square inches of mercurial fillings staring me in the face. I gave him a remedy for his tonsilitis, and told him that I should decline to treat him after this unless he had every mercurial filling removed. This he did immediately, and I think he spent the most of three weeks in the dentist's chair. The fillings had been put in when he was about fourteen years old. The result of the removal of the fillings was a perfect, and permanent cure of his chronic gastritis.

In Dec. 1885, a young lady of twenty-seven years presented herself for a throat affection, which had existed for three or four months, for which she had been locally treated by a specialist, without relief. She had a fine voice, and came to the city to pursue her-musical studies. Her voice had so entirely failed her that she was on the point of abandoning her studies, and the specialist gave her little encouragement of a cure.

The symptoms were as follows: Sensation of a foreign body in the larynx, much aggravated by attempts at singing. After singing a few notes voice grows so hoarse that she cannot produce a tone. Has a constant desire to swallow this lump down. All symptoms of throat aggravated by any attempt to use the voice in singing. Is always much worse during damp weather. Has a slight post-nasal catarrh, with hawking up and drawing down of clear mucus. Is always better while eating, and then the sensation of lump entirely disappears. Has had much grief during the last two years. All functions normal, and she looks the picture of health.

On examining throat I found four molar teeth filled with mercurials.

I decided to try two remedies and if they acted palliatively or not at all, I should decline to go on with the treatment till the fillings were substituted by gold.

Ignatia helped her wonderfully for a week, then everything returned. Spongia relieved her for a few days only.

The fillings were removed, and one dose of Ignatia took away the lump and it has never returned.

I observed this case from December till May. From January 15 to May 14 she was able to sing, and had no more hoarseness, and made very satisfactory progress in her art.

A case of Meniere's disease treated by me during the last ten years is also instructive. I am fully aware what a vague term Meniere's disease is, and that it can convey no concise idea of the terrible misery this young school teacher was suffering from, till she fortunately came within the blessing of Hahnemann's teachings. It would be too long a story to relate here in detail. She had been a sufferer from intense vertigo, nausea and tinnitus, which came in paroxysms obliging her to give up her occupation for weeks. During the intervals of freedom from vertigo etc., she was comparatively comfortable except a constant tinnitus,and dullness of hearing. She improved very much after Silicea, which was very surely indicated. Still occasional occurrences of entire incapacity to perform her duties recurred year after year during which time she reported every six to eight weeks without thoroughly eradicating these attacks. At one time she obtained almost two months of freedom after a dose Kobaltum given after the symptom of stinging pains from soft palate into left ear. The tinnitus, however, remained. Two years ago I had over a dozen amalgam fillings removed. When one of these fillings was opened to the base, a horrible odor came from the cavity; her dentist told her he had never smelt anything more foul, and dentists ought to know what a foul smell is.

Her health has markedly improved during the two years. The tinnitus she says is now "so far off" that she scarcely hears it. A ptosis of both eyelids has entirely disappeared during the last year. A chronic post-nasal catarrh gives her no more inconvenience. She told me a few days ago that she should never regret the inconvenience and expense of the removal of the old fillings, even if her head and ears had not improved, because she now felt that her teeth belonged to her and she could use them with real comfort, which was a new sensation to her. These fillings had been in her teeth since her girlhood.

I have several more cases, but I will only report one more. A young gentleman of twenty-five years appealed to me for the cure of an eczema which appeared chiefly on scrotum, pubis, and legs. As he lived in Brooklyn I advised him to consult one of our honored members, who I knew would take the case into careful consideration. The young man was tortured by the most intense itching especially at night, so that frequently he was kept awake three to four hours. After nearly a year of treatment he derived no benefit whatever, and appealed to me again; after an examination of his case I came to the remedy which I thought surely indicated, but I knew that my astute friend in Brooklyn must have given it to him. Among other indications there was a fearful thickening and deformity of the nails of fingers and toes. Besides the eczema of scrotum, crotch and legs, he had a thick, crusty eruption on left ear, which was so disfiguring that he was obliged to throw up a lucrative occupation. On the left side of head above the ear a large crust had formed and the hair was closely matted down into this crust. The itching was intolerable in all parts of the body affected.

By the merest chance my attention was drawn to his throat, as he complained of some catarrhal irritation there. On examination I found a whole battery of mercurial fillings which he told me had rested there since his boyhood. I knew the eczema was inherited as I had treated and helped his father of a similar eruption on the scrotum several years before. I knew also that my colleague in Brooklyn could recognize an indicated remedy far better than I could.

I knew that the mercurial fillings were not inherited, and their existence had escaped the attention of my colleague who had treated him for months without benefit. I sent him home to Brooklyn with the order to remove every amalgam filling. I think he had sixteen removed. Then he came to our hospital as a private patient, as his appearance made it impossible for him to get into any other quarters, so repulsive was his condition. He remained here four months and I have the gratification to say that he is so nearly cured that he has resumed his work. The thick crust on ear has vanished. He sleeps eight hours every night. His finger and toe nails have improved wonderfully, and his mother sent me this message: "The Lord be praised that our son is again presentable through your ministrations."

Now this is all very fine and satisfactory. But I have something to offer per contra.

A young woman whom I have been treating for over a year for intense headaches, and an offensive ozaena, derived great benefit for the latter affection, but the headaches persisted although the remedies given were carefully chosen. She had a mouthful of amalgam fillings, which were removed at my advice six months ago. So far the removal has not in the slightest degree aided me in overcoming the headaches. She is still under treatment, but no better. I am, however, much more confident of ultimately healing her now that the amalgam fillings are removed.

Per contra, another case: A man of forty has had continual canker in his mouth, on tongue, gums, and cheeks since his boyhood. They have been especially persistent since a suppression of eczema fifteen years ago, since which.time he has rarely been without one or two large ulcers in his mouth I found he had a mouthful of amalgam fillings which he had carried since boyhood. They were all removed last October. I have treated him ever since and he is not one whit better since the removal and the treatment. Nevertheless I feel that I have removed a possible hindrance to his case, and if he "sticks " I hope to eradicate this psora from his system, which would probably be doubtful with the amalgams remaining.

The use of amalgam fillings dates back a great many years. No two are prepared under exactly the same formulas, but they are generally composed of silver, tin, zinc mixed with mercury. Some of them have platinum or copper also mixed with them to give them greater hardness, and to prevent their shrinking away from the margins of the cavity. Some are entirely of copper mixed with mercury, which gives the hardest kind of filling so far as saving tooth substance is concerned.

This paper is merely offered as a stimulus for further investigations. However, I advise you to look into patients mouths if the indicated remedy fails, or acts only palliatively.


Dr. H. C. Allen: That is a very instructive paper and one from which we may learn a good deal. In my practice I am in the habit once or twice, or some times oftener every month, of sending patients to the dentist to have mercurial fillings removed. I have found that a great many cases of follicular pharyngitis, and many other affections of the throat, post-nasal catarrh, etc., are practically incurable until these amalgam fillings are removed. I have relieved chronic rheumatism many times after having the mercurial amalgams removed, and I think this is the experience of a great many in our profession.

I remember one case last winter, a lady about forty-five, a large, apparently healthy looking woman, came into my clinic with a very peculiar report. What she wanted to get rid of most was a tumor in the left side of the middle of the tongue, about as large as a walnut and hard as a piece of lead. On the upper portion of this was an ulcer, about as large as a dime; sharp, shooting, pricking, stabbing pains; profuse salivation; swelling of the carotid and sub-maxillary glands and, also, the cervical glands on that side. She had, I think, thirteen large amalgam fillings in her teeth and one tooth, a molar on this side of the mouth almost entirely built up, the entire crown being of mercurial amalgam.

The first thing to be done was to send her to the dentist and, after two or three weeks, she returned with the amalgam fillings removed. Her case was then very carefully taken, and one peculiar factor in it, one peculiar symptom, was that for a number of years, since these fillings had been put in her teeth, she had only menstruated once a year. Psorinum was given her and pretty soon an improvement began, and within a month menstruation occurred profuse, long lasting, painless, dark, offensive and clotted. This was followed by a decided improvement, and in another month the tumor was nearly gone, and the ulcer, or whatever it was, healed up. She is still under treatment and far from well.

Dr. Clark: The experience of Doctor Wesselhoeft goes to confirm the experience of all others who have given any attention to this subject. Doctor Gregg, of Buffalo, has given, or did give, more attention to it than anyone of whom I know, and some time before his death I wrote him regarding the subject, and he sent me a lot of literature on the subject including some of his writings. He had attempted to educate the public in Buffalo up to the point of avoiding amalgam fillings. He had written to the daily papers; there were quite a number of articles over his signature that he sent me. It is an important subject, and, as I said a moment ago, anyone who has given any attention to it will be able to confirm what DoctorWesselhceft has had in his experience.

I had numerous instances of it. I remember particularly one young lady who was subject to attacks of pharyngitis. Ulcers would form; the medicine would help, and again another attack would come on. She had quite a number of amalgam fillings, and until they were removed she continued to have the attacks. So soon as they were removed the attacks disappeared and she has had none since. The difficulty is not confined to the throat, but there are symptoms in other parts, and it is always important to get rid of the amalgam before we will be able to do anything for the permanent relief of these cases.

Dr. Fincke: That reminds me of a case of a lady who was poisoned when picking raspberries in a wild place. Very soon a little greenish spot appeared at the second joint of the right little finger, which increased to an ulcer to such an extent that under the most excruciating pains she could find no rest night and day, and became so low that I feared she would die. Finally a piece of flesh sloughed off, leaving the bone bare, and she gradually recovered. The tendon grew again and the finger was as limber as before. But the shape of the hand was afterward changed in so far as the middle finger was pushed forward toward the inside. Though this happened some fifteen years ago, there is still now and then a burning pain at the injured part, which is immediately relieved by a dose of Arsenicum album 9c or 9m. When the ulcer was forming a great many tiny thorns could be observed at the place where afterward the flesh came off, but they were so small that they could not be removed. This was in August, but in May next my niece succeeded in getting out two small thorns from the fourth finger, which, when placed under the microscope, showed a fine barbed hook and after that such thorns came out spontaneously from different fingers of the right hand. What it was could never be made out. A farmer said there was a species of poison sumach which is more poisonous than the poison oak and poison ivy. The treatment was, of course,homeopathic.

Dr. W. L. Morgan: This discussion brings to mind an experience I had when I was practicing dentistry. There was a lady complaining of rheumatism or something else, didn't know what; had complained several years. She was limping a part of the time, walking on a crutch for a pain in the ankle without swelling, a simple pain, and described symptoms like headache. Finally she came to me to give some little attention to her teeth. I found three large amalgam fillings in the lower molars of the same side. She then told me about her trouble with the ankle, and after carefully investigating the symptoms all around I told her I thought those fillings were having a great deal to do with her ill health. Well, she said, take them out, then, and it did not take much persuasion till I took them out, and put in gutta percha filling. In about six weeks her ankle was well and her headaches were well, and for three or four years afterwards she had good health and no trouble. Since that time I have always made it a habit to watch the mouth, when symptoms would appear that I could not get relieved by the remedies that seemed to be indicated, and I have always told them to go to a dentist and get the amalgam fillings taken out. I have found in a large majority of cases that it rendered the case curable, if it did not cure it without any other treatment. Only last week I directed one of my patients to have an amalgam filling taken out, on account of an earache and tonsilitis, with a swelling under the ear that resisted all treatment. I found a large amalgam filling on the lower second molar. I directed her to go and have it taken out and she did so just the day before I came away, so I don't know what the result has been.