Physical & mental problems attributed to dental amalgam fillings: a descriptive study of 99 self-referred patients compared with 272 controls

OBJECTIVE: The physical and mental symptomatology of 99
self-referred patients complaining of multiple somatic and
mental symptoms attributed to dental amalgam fillings were
compared with patients with known chronic medical disorders
seen in alternative (N = 93) and ordinary (N = 99) medical
family practices and patients with dental amalgam fillings (N
= 80) seen in an ordinary dental practice.

METHOD: The assessments included written self-reports, a
131-item somatic symptom checklist; Eysenck Personality
Questionnaire, the General Health Questionnaire, and Toronto
Alexithymia Scale.

RESULTS: The dental amalgam sample reported significantly
more physical symptoms from all body regions. Self-reports
suggested that 62% suffered from a chronic anxiety disorder
(generalized anxiety disorder or panic). Forty-seven percent
suffered from a major depression compared with 14% in the two
clinical-comparison samples and none in the dental control
sample. Symptoms suggesting somatization disorder were found
in 29% of the dental amalgam sample compared with only one
subject in the 272 comparison subjects. One third of the
dental amalgam patients reported symptoms of chronic fatigue
syndrome compared with none in the dental control sample and
only 2 and 6%, respectively, in the two clinical comparison
samples. The dental amalgam group reported higher mean
neuroticism and lower lie scores than the comparison groups.

CONCLUSION: Self-referred patients with health complaints
attributed to dental amalgam are a heterogeneous group of
patients who suffer multiple symptoms and frequently have
mental disorders. There is a striking similarity with the
multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome.

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