One thing that my posts to sci.med.dentistry have achieved over the years is that the regular contributors to this newsgroup no longer bother to assert that dissimilar metals in contact with each other need an electrolyte to be present in order for them to generate an electric current.
For the benefit of any newcomers who might still believe in this falsehood, an elementary description of the thermoelectric effect can be found at:The general principle is that when dissimilar metals are placed in contact with each other and the points of contact are at different temperatures an electrical current flows, and the current continues to flow for as long as the temperature difference is maintained. (Remember that a typical dental amalgam is an inhomogeneous mixture of dissimilar metals in its own right - and that it has been common practice for dentists to screw metal alloy retaining pins into the root sockets of patients' teeth and encase the heads of the pins in amalgam.)
The important thing to remember is that this effect occurs without any electrolysis taking place. There is no "electrochemistry" occurring at all. There isn't any requirement for an "electrolyte" to be present. It is entirely a thermoelectric effect.
Anyway, the latest news is that Professor L I Anatychuk of the Institute of Thermoelectricity in the Ukraine, one of the world's greatest living authorities on thermoelectric phenomena, believes that the thermoelectric behavior of a piece of metal is enough on its own to stimulate neurological synapses in animal tissue. (See: "Seebeck or Volta?", L.I.Anatychuk, Journal of Thermoelectricity, No.1, 1994)
However, in spite of this it appears that there isn't anyone anywhwre in the world who knows what the thermoelectric properties of metal dental restorations are.
Attached below is a series of entreaties which have been submitted to the website of the International Thermoelctric Society on this topic - so far without any comment or contestation in return.
I thought that newsgroup members might be interested to read them.
Keith P Walsh**************************************************************** Academician, Professor L. Anatychuk from Ukraine, scientist, engineer, the author of books and scientific works, editor of "Journal of Thermoelectricity", organizer and President of the International Thermoelectric Academy is well known to thermoelectric community.
On July 15 Dr. Anatychuk celebrates his 70-th jubilee and 50-th anniversary of scientific and pedagogical activity in the field of thermoelectricity.
On the eve of this glorious jubilee, President of Ukraine Viktor Yuschenko awarded Dr. L.Anatychuk with the Order "For Meritorious Service" of first degree. A Decree on this deed of esteem has been officially announced on the site of President of UkraineDr. L.I. Anatychuk had been already awarded with 4 Orders, among them 2 Orders "For Meritorious Service" of second and third degree. Now by the Decree of President Yuschenko the two Orders "For Meritorious Service" have been supplemented by the Order "For Meritorious Service" of first degree. Thus, Dr. Anatychuk becomes full holder of three Orders "For Meritorious Service". In the Decree it is noted that these awards are for the "achievements in science, technology and education".
Congratulations to Dr. L.I.Anatychuk! Well done!
E-mail of the hero of anniversary firstname.lastname@example.org .
The upcoming events on the occasion of the jubilee festivities and International Forum on Thermoelectricity on July 15 -19, 2007 in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, will be highlighted in further zts.com news.
-- O. Luste, email@example.com reads report as spam Has the esteemed Professor Submitted by kpw on Thu, 2007-08-23 07:11. Has the esteemed Professor Anatychuk ever measured the thermoelectric properties of the inhomogeneous mixtures of dissimilar metals commonly used in restorative dentistry?
Or does he just guess 'em like everyone else?
Keith P Walsh
edit reply report as spam A few years ago the Submitted by kpw on Tue, 2007-09-11 12:26. A few years ago the organisation "Health Canada" issued the following statement via the website of the Canadian Dental Association regarding the placement of metal amalgam dental fillings:
"It should be noted that Health Canada has taken the position that new amalgam fillings should not be placed in contact with existing metal devices in the mouth"
I wrote to the Canadian Dental Association regarding this statement with the following query:
"Is this recommendation intended to apply to metal alloy retaining pins screwed into the root sockets of a patient's tooth?"
And I received the following reply from Dr Philip Neufeld of Health Canada:
"Dear Mr. Walsh:
Health Canada's position statement on amalgam recommended against placing amalgam fillings in patients who have existing metal devices because this results in having dissimilar metals in the mouth. Dissimilar metals set up galvanic currents which can cause two problems. First, they accelerate the corrosion of the amalgam. This leads to pitting, crevice formation, and marginal leaks, shortening the life of the filling. The corrosion also increases the rate of mercury vapour release.
Second, galvanic currents can cause a tingling sensation or a metallic taste in the mouth which are annoying to the patient. Sometimes the currents can cause inflammation or sores on the gums, tongue or the inside of the cheek in contact with the metals.
However, it is unlikely that a metal retaining pin implanted into the tooth or the jaw bone would cause galvanic currents. In order for galvanic currents to be created, the pin would have to be in contact with an electrolyte such as saliva or extracellular fluids, and such retaining pins are usually not exposed. Health Canada recognizes that although it is preferable to avoid dissimilar metals in the mouth, there may be situations where there is no practical alternative. Dental practitioners are therefore expected to take these factors into consideration in making decisions on treatment.
Philip Neufeld, Ph.D."
This left me with the distinct impression that Dr Neufeld was being completely negligent of any possible thermoelectric effects.
Not only is dental amalgam an inhomogeneous mixture of dissimilar metals in its own right, but our knowledge of thermoelectric effects tells us that, in addition to any thermoelectric activity which might arise from temperature gradients in the amalgam itself, any arrangement whereby an amalgam filling is placed in contact with a metal retaining pin screwed into a patient's tooth might also be reasonably expected to provide further potential for the generation of thermoelectric emf and eddy currents along the contours of the interface between the amalgam and the retaining pin.
But as we have seen, it appears that dentists in Canada are totally ignorant of any thermoelectric behavior that such dental restorations may produce.
Are dentists in other countries any less ignorant?
Well maybe not.
Self-styled "dentist to the stars" Philip Wander of Manchester in England, who specialises in the removal of amalgams, at least warns of the problems which can arise as a result of the electrical potentials generated by amalgam dental restorations:
"Nevertheless, as potentially damaging as mercury in the mouth is the
have seen momentary sparks of up to one volt - enough to light a small torch or flashlight. It's worth remembering that the currents generated by amalgams are formed very close to the brain, which ordinarily operated at far lower potentials (only a few millivolts). The brain lies only a few millietres from the jaw bone, where the roots of the teeth are inserted, just on the other side of the thin cranial bone and the meninges (the three membranes enveloping the brain and spinal cord). This kind of current can cause mental dysfunction, which I often find in clinical practice."
See:However I suspect that even he wouldn't know the extent to which the voltages he talks about are generated by thermoelectric phenomena.
Interestingly though, one of Dr Wander's celebrity patients appears to have been Ukrainian soccer star Andrei Kanchelskis. More amazingly, if you search Dr Wander's website you will discover that Kanchelskis even brought his own mother-in-law over to England from the Ukraine to have her teeth sorted out too.
It appears that dentists in the Ukraine may be just as ignorant as those in Canada.
What's the point of a country having the world's greatest authority on the science of thermoelectricity if the dentists in that country are still totally clueless as to the thermoelectric behavior of the inhomogeneous mixtures of dissimilar metals that they place in their patients' mouths?
I'd say that if Professor Anatychuk could redress this ignorance then perhaps he really would deserve a medal!
Keith P Walsh
edit reply report as spam Thermoelectricians, It Submitted by kpw on Fri, 2007-09-28 07:34. Thermoelectricians,
It appears that there isn't anyone anywhere in the world who knows what the thermoelectric properties of a typical dental amalgam are.
And amalagam fillings are placed in children's teeth.
If it turned out that the thermoelectric potentials generated by amalgam dental fillings are large enough to dissipate electrical energy through the nerves in people's heads, then the reputation of every thermoelectrician in the world, including that of Professor L. I. Anatychuk, would not be worth a fig.
Perhaps this explains why it appears that there isn't anyone anywhere in the world who knows what the thermoelectric properties of a typical dental amalgam are.
Keith P Walsh
edit reply report as spam Old Professor Anatychuk Submitted by kpw on Thu, 2007-11-22 09:27. Old Professor Anatychuk appears to believe that the thermoelectric behavior of a piece of metal is able to stimulate neurological synapses in animal tissue (see "Seebeck or Volta?", L.I.Anatychuk., Journal of Thermoelectricity, No.1, 1994)
Of course, there are no muscles which might be caused to jump in the upper and lower mandibles of the human head. However there are sensitive organs nearby.
It makes me wonder whether people with metal fillings in their teeth ever complain of ringing in their ears?
And if they do, do any of them refuse to believe that their condition was caused by listening to loud rock music?
Well, it appears that the painter Vincent van Gogh complained quite desperately of ringing in his ears. Of course, no-one told him he was suffering from "tinnitus", because they hadn't thought of a name for this condition back then. They just told him he was crazy.
One thing's for certain, Vincent van Gogh never attended a Led Zeppelin show. Although apparently he did have rather bad teeth.
You know, the widespread adoption of metal amalgams for use in restorative dentistry was quickly followed by the rise to promonence of psychiatric "medicine" in our societies. And presumed "explanations" such as "manic depression" or "schizophrenia" are not explanations at all. Like "tinnitus", they are simply terms which have been used to describe particular groups of symptoms.
So come on thermoelectricians. Measure the thermoelectric behavior of metal amalgam dental fillings. You never know, members of the dental profession might be most grateful (but I suspect only if you can tell them what they would wish to hear - otherwise they might prefer that you keep it to yourselves).
And you might even be confirming the great Professor Anatychuk's theories.
Keith P Walsh
PS, a typical dental amalgam is an inhomogeneous mixture of dissimilar metals in its own right (see:Not only that, but it has been common practice for dentists to screw metal alloy retaining pins into the root sockets of their patients' teeth and encase the heads of the pins in metal amalgams.
However, in spite of these facts it appears that there isn't anyone anywhere in the world who knows what the thermoelectric behaviors of metal dental restorations are.
edit reply report as spam One last thing. If you go Submitted by kpw on Sun, 2007-11-25 08:29. One last thing.
If you go to:
- you will find a series of letters asking questions about the electrical behavior of metal dental restorations in which the writer clearly recognises the link between the thermoelectric effect and Alessandro Volta's frog's leg experiment. (It was actually Luigi Galvani who demonstrated the frog's leg effect first, but he made the unforgiveable mistake of suggesting a wrong explanation for it, so his contribution is often dismissed - in much the same way that Thomas Johann Seebeck's contribution in stumbling across the Seebeck effect is also dismissed by some people.)
These letters were all written in 1992, more than a year before the publication of Professor Anatychuk's paper, "Seebeck or Volta?", in the Journal of Thermoelectricity.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that the Ukrainian government is giving its award to the wrong person.
But I wonder who wrote those letters?
Keith P Walsh
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