Dentist Can Criticize Fillings With Mercury
By LYNNE TUOHY
Hartford Courant Staff Writer, July 14 2005
Trumbull dentist Mark Breiner, who has campaigned for decades about the health risks
inherent in mercury-laced amalgam fillings, has won a First Amendment battle to do so
without risking his license to practice.
The state Department of Public Health recently agreed to amend a consent decree it entered
into with Breiner in 2001, changing it to permit Breiner to speak publicly and write
commentary pieces about his belief that amalgam fillings can cause a panoply of health risks.
"I can say whatever I want in public and not have to worry," a victorious Breiner said
Breiner has long been at loggerheads with the health department, which has twice threatened to remove his license because of his controversial advocacy.
Breiner in 2001 entered a consent decree with the department to stop an effort to take his
license, agreeing that he would no longer advise his patients to have their amalgam fillings -
often referred to as "silver" fillings - removed. But the department felt an opinion piece
Breiner wrote for the Connecticut Post in 2002 violated that decree.
In his commentary, written on the heels of a mercury spill in a Monroe high school science
laboratory, Breiner reiterated his longstanding dispute with the American Dental Association
over whether amalgam fillings are safe.
The state health department responded by informing Breiner that the commentary piece
appeared to violate the 2001 consent decree, but that health officials would take no further
action against his license if he agreed not to write any more opinion pieces about amalgam
fillings or pending legislation.
Breiner not only disagreed, he enlisted the aid of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and
sued the department, claiming it was violating his free speech rights.
"I could have said I won't speak out any more on this topic. I could have capitulated," Breiner
said. "But that's not my nature.
"They're trying to get mercury out of everything," Breiner said. "You can't even get a
mercury thermometer in this state. And they're saying the only safe place to have it is in
someone's mouth? I've seen thousands of people who've elected to remove mercury from
their mouths and thousands who have gotten better from all sorts of symptoms. It's a
disservice to the public to keep them in the dark or to try to misinform them."
The modified consent decree now specifies that nothing in it "shall be construed as
prohibiting [Breiner] from communicating to others, including members of the press or
private individuals ... or writing or publishing op-ed pieces or articles, or speaking at a public
forum or not-for-profit educational seminar about his opinions relating to amalgam fillings."
Breiner is still barred, however, from recommending that patients have amalgam fillings
removed. "I do not have free speech within the confines of my office," Breiner said. "When
you have a license, you forfeit certain freedoms."
Breiner may state his views in advertisements for his practice, but the consent decree
mandates that he add the caveat that his opinions "are not shared by traditional dentists and
physicians, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut State Dental
Commission or the American Dental Association, all of whom have concluded that there is
insufficient scientific evidence to establish that the removal of amalgam fillings cures and/or
alleviates symptoms of any disease or condition."
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant