IF you have ever suffered from niggling health worries and never been able to identify the cause, the answer could be right under your nose – in the fillings of your teeth.
The amalgam in traditional fillings contains up to 50 per cent mercury, an element long known to be poisonous.
Mercury fillings have been used for more than 150 years, and two million of them have been fitted in the UK in the last year alone. But questions have long been raised about their safety.
New studies have shown these fillings give off minute amounts of mercury vapour into the mouth, which is then retained by the body.
Now there is a highly contentious scientific debate going on over whether long-term exposure can harm people's health.
Medical professionals who believe amalgam fillings should be banned, or that patients in this country should at least be given an informed choice, are appearing on ITV's Trevor McDonald's Tonight programme at 8pm this evening.
The programme, What's In Your Mouth?, reports that Sweden and Norway have now banned mercury amalgam fillings and the United States health regulator recently issued new advice about how they may harm pregnant women and developing children. Which begs the question: Why do British officials seem unconcerned?
Former Hebden Bridge dentist Dr John Roberts, who appears on the programme, is one of a new breed of alternative dentists. He is one of thousands of mercury-free dentists worldwide reporting beneficial heath effects for patients. Dr Roberts, who lived in Hebden Bridge for 20 years, has not used mercury fillings for nursing mothers or children since 1987 or in any patients since 1994.
He uses bio-compatible materials at his Integrated Health Practice in Edgerton, Huddersfield, and has a lot of Calderdale patients.
Holistic dentists believe mercury may adversely affect the body's energetic system, known to acupuncturists as meridians and cause problems such as infant autism, headaches, arthritis and even Alzheimer's.
He said: "I have a lot of patients who know that by having their mercury amalgams removed it might help with other medical complaints they have. While I cannot make any guarantees, many patients report improvements in general health and some are very significant."
The programme shows the precautions taken by Dr Roberts when removing mercury amalgam, with both him and his nurse wearing gas masks, and the patient given their own air supply.