Hal Huggins was an American campaigner against the use of dental amalgam fillings and other dental therapies that he believed to be unsafe. Huggins began to promote his ideas in the 1970s and played a major role in generating controversy over the use of amalgam. Huggins had his license to practice dentistry revoked in 1996 after a panel found him guilty of gross negligence. Since then, he continued to publish on the topic of mercury and human health and believed that dental amalgam and other dental practices were responsible for a range of serious diseases.
Life and career
Huggins received his DDS in 1962 from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In 1973, he became involved in the study and research of mercury toxicity and its impact on human health. Through the course of these investigations, Huggins earned an MS from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 1989 with special emphasis in toxicology and immunology.
Huggins subsequently became a prolific campaigner against the use of amalgam dental fillings, creating the Huggins Diagnostic Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the Center, patients were charged up to $8,500 apiece for an intensive 2-week course of treatment including the removal of all amalgam fillings. Huggins claimed in his books that the Center's profits funded research and free care. The Center was closed in September 1995 after a series of lawsuits against Huggins alleging negligence and fraud. TIME reported that despite Huggins's difficulties, some patients continued to swear by his treatments; former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay had his fillings removed by Huggins in 1991 and reported resolution of an "unexplained numbness" as a result.
Huggins received a series of warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for violating good manufacturing practices and marketing unapproved medical devices. In the mid-1980s, Huggins was investigated by the FDA for his marketing of the "Amalgameter", a device which claimed to detect "positively or negative charged dental fillings". The FDA found that the Amalgameter was a simple battery-powered ammeter, but was being promoted with a variety of scientifically unsubstantiated claims about dental fillings. The FDA reported in 1989 that Huggins had ceased manufacturing the device, but that "many could be around to dupe unsuspecting dental patients for a long, long time."
In 1996, a Colorado state judge recommended that Huggins's dental license be revoked, citing his use of "'deceptive yet seductive advertising' to trick chronically ill patients into thinking that the true cause of their illness was mercury."  Huggins's license was subsequently revoked by the Colorado State Board of Dental Examiners for gross negligence and the use of unnecessary and unproven procedures. TIME reported the judge's conclusion that Huggins "diagnosed 'mercury toxicity' in all his patients, including some without amalgam fillings."
Huggins contended that the revocation of his license was politically motivated in retaliation for his claims that amalgam fillings caused disease and claimed that he had not worked as a dentist since 1984. His criticisms of dental amalgam were featured on 60 Minutes.
Huggins died on November 29, 2014 at the age of 77.
Research and beliefs
Huggins convened a conference on the biocompatibility of dental materials at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, with the assistance of a foundation called the Toxic Element Research Foundation that, according to Time magazine, is used by Huggins to promote his views. The participants unanimously signed a statement urging that amalgam fillings be banned immediately.
Huggins has argued that amalgam can cause digestive problems such as Crohn's disease and ulcers, mood disorders such as depression and fatigue, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and lupus, high or low blood pressure, arthritis, tachycardia, mononucleosis, and cancers such as leukemia and Hodgkin's disease. In a paper published in Alternative Medicine Review in 1998, Huggins claimed that changes in cerebrospinal fluid that are typical for multiple sclerosis remitted after the removal of amalgam fillings and root canals. Huggins claimed that dental care according to his understanding of dentistry has allowed wheelchair-using patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis to walk unassisted within weeks. These claims are inconsistent with mainstream scientific consensus on the causes of multiple sclerosis. A meta-analysis examined a range of studies on if there was a link between multiple sclerosis saw a slight increase in the risk of multiple sclerosis associated with amalgam use, but noted that this was not statistically significant. Another study found that although there was a geographical relationship between dental caries and multiple sclerosis, the use of dental amalgam was not associated with this disease.
Huggins's criticisms of dental care were not limited to amalgam fillings; he was also opposed to root canals that he alleges can cause focal infections and illness, and has claimed that implants can cause autoimmune disease. According to a review article on mercury controversy published by Dr. Dodes in the Journal of the American Dental Association, it reports that Huggins "has attracted many followers, and his writings and media appearances have led some dentists to question the safety of amalgam restorations," but the review nevertheless concluded that "There are numerous logical and methodological errors in the anti-amalgam literature. The author concludes that the evidence supporting the safety of amalgam restorations is compelling."
- Dental Amalgam and Mercury in Dentistry Report of an NHMRC working party, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council March 1999
- Dodes JE (March 2001). "The amalgam controversy. An evidence-based analysis". J Am Dent Assoc. 132 (3): 348–56. PMID 11258092. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2001.0178.
- Jaroff, Leon (2002-05-08). "There's Nothing Dangerous About 'Silver' Fillings". TIME. Archived from the original on February 2, 2003. Retrieved 2015-01-23.
- Staudenmayer, Herman (1998). Environmental Illness: Myth and Reality. CRC Press. pp. 400 pages. ISBN 978-1-56670-305-5.
- Huggins Hal A; Levy Thomas (1999). Uninformed Consent : The Hidden Dangers in Dental Care. Hampton Roads Pub Co. p. 278. ISBN 1-57174-117-8.
- Christine Gorman; Richard Woodbury (1995-12-11). "Are Your Teeth Toxic?". TIME. Archived from the original on July 5, 2009.
- Huggins, Hal A. (1993). Who Makes Your Hormones Hum?. Avery Publishing. ISBN 0-89529-550-4.
- "Dentist's Device (Amalgameter)". FDA Consumer. 23 (8): 33–34. 1989.
- Disciplinary proceedings regarding the license to practice dentistry in the state of Colorado of Hal A. Huggins http://www.casewatch.org/board/dent/huggins/alj.pdf | accessdate = 2015-01-23
- Callahan, Patricia (1996-03-05). "Judge urges license revocation of dentist who claims mercury fillings are harmful". Denver Post. p. B-04.
- Radford, Bill (2003-02-23). "Anti-amalgam pioneer no stranger to controversy". The Gazette (Colorado Springs).
- Huggins, Hal (2002). Solving the MS Mystery: Help, Hope and Recovery. Matrix, Inc. p. 161. ISBN 0-9724611-1-6.
- CBS's 60 Minutes, December 16, 1990.
- Dr. Hal Huggins - Obituary - Legacy.com  (Retrieved January 3, 2015)
- Huggins; et al. (2004). Mercury & other toxic metals in humans : proceedings of the First International Conference on Biocompatibility of Materials. Matrix, Inc. p. 150.
- Huggins HA, Levy TE (1998). "Cerebrospinal Fluid Protein Changes in Multiple Sclerosis After Dental Amalgam Removal" (PDF). Alternative Medicine Review. 3 (4): 295–300. PMID 9727079.
- Aminzadeh KK, Etminan M (2007). "Dental amalgam and multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis". J Public Health Dent. 67 (1): 64–6. PMID 17436982. doi:10.1111/j.1752-7325.2007.00011.x.
- McGrother CW, Dugmore C, Phillips MJ, Raymond NT, Garrick P, Baird WO (September 1999). "Multiple sclerosis, dental caries and fillings: a case-control study". Br Dent J. 187 (5): 261–4. PMID 10520544. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4800255a.