So, the rubber dam is an effective tool for protecting the inside of your mouth from spraying mercury during amalgam extraction. But, what about atmospheric mercury: those tiny particles released into the air during the revision process?
Well, we’ve got you covered there, too! Negative ionization to the rescue!
Negative ionization is a powerful and very effective way of removing mercury vapor from the air in a dental office. But, first of all, what’s negative ionization all about?
Electrically Charged Air Molecules
It is estimated that in every cubic centimeter of air, there are anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 ions. Some of these are positively charged, and the rest are negatively charged. There’s no third option.
Since the Earth’s surface itself is negatively charged, it naturally repels negative air ions, which are very mobile. They’re also incredibly beneficial to human beings – to all living things, in fact.
If you want an image of how negative ions make us feel, picture yourself at the beach or seated next to a waterfall. Calming, right?
The amazing thing here is that “too much of a good thing” doesn’t apply to negative ionization. You just feel – and biologically are – better and better.
One major benefit of an increase in negative ions is the increase of available serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, naturally produced by the body, that is responsible for mood balancing. Bottom line: the higher your serotonin levels are, the better you feel. Think of it like our natural “happy” chemical.
Increased healing of lung problems is another benefit of negative ionization. It also acts as a brain stimulant, so it’s ideal for maintaining attention, during study for example. Hence the popularity of small ionizers for desktop use.
However, our point here is not what ionization does for the student, but what it does for the dental patient.
Back in the Chair
Remember that high-speed drill I spoke of in last week’s post?
Let’s say the average amalgam filling contains anywhere from 40 to 50 percent mercury. Well, when that high-speed drill comes into contact with such a filling, the resultant concentration of mercury vapor in the air in front of your nose can increase rapidly. In fact, the level can be higher than a normal mercury-measuring device can even register. As in off the scale!
That means that your lungs, those of your dentist, and those of any attending assistants are working at full power just to filter all of this toxic gas in the air. This is an overwhelming task, and it is hardly a healthy one.
Negative Ion Generators
Enter the negative ion generators. There are basically two types of these devices.
The first simply charges mercury in the air, causing it to fall to the floor. Of course, then the floor needs a thorough scrubbing! And, we’re not talking about ordinary pathogens, bad as they are.
The second kind of deionizer targets the whole dental activity area, capturing the airborne mercury in a filter on the opposite side of the room. This is more effective, since it virtually eliminates the vaporized mercury from the room.
Truth is Stranger than Fiction
All of this may seem a little sci-fi, but that’s only because the science behind the fiction is real! What’s not fictitious is how seriously we take both our patients’ and our own health, especially when it’s a question of heavy metal toxicity.
We’ll talk more about the benefits of negative ionization in future posts. For now, thanks for reading these posts. All of them are designed to give you a clearer idea of our Patient Protection Protocol.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, as we move into the Protocol’s third, and final, phase. Until then, take good care!
All the best,