Monday, July 14, 2008

Dentists still using fillings with toxic mercury

From My News – Home

MY PAPER FRIDAY JULY 11, 2008

 

DARYLL NANAYAKARA

 

THE United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning late last month against the use of amalgam dental fillings that contain mercury.

 

But five local dentists my paper spoke to said they would still carry on using the fillings unless patients request for an alternative.

 

Early last month, the FDA warned that the use of the amalgam fillings poses a potential health hazard, due to the mercury contained within the fillings.

 

According to a report in The Independent that was published late last month, the FDA is “reviewing its rules and may end up restricting or banning the use of the metal”.

 

The warning from the organisation follows years of lobbying from activists, the article said. They argue that the use of the metal in dental procedures can result in health conditions such as heart ailments and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Mercury, which by itself is a highly poisonous metal, makes up almost half of an amalgam filling, which also contains silver and small amounts of copper and tin. When introduced into the body via such amalgams, mercury can have neurotoxic effects on growing children and foetuses.

 

The use of such amalgam fillings has been going on for about 150 years and countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway have already banned the use of the fillings.

 

But dentists my paper spoke to say that the use of the amalgam dental fillings is still common among local clinics and hospitals.

 

Dr Wan L.T., 54, a dentist in private practice, explained: “Most patients here don’t mind having their teeth filled with the amalgam fillings.

 

“Patients want it because it is cheaper compared to other alternatives such as porcelain or composites.”

 

On the average, 70 per cent of his patients who require fillings end up opting for the amalgam fillings.

 

Amalgam fillings can cost up to 25 per cent less than alternatives such as composites and porcelain.

 

However, Dr Jerry Lim, 37, has made his practice mercury-free – he stopped using the amalgam fillings in 2004.

 

Dr Lim explained: “I am just staying on the safe side.”

 

darylldj@sph.com.sg

 

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