Mercury Treaty Offers Dental Amalgam Options
The use of dental amalgams as a filling material has been controversial because of the mercury content in the amalgam. Research has shown these fillings do leach mercury into the mouth, but studies vary not only in the amount leached, but whether or not the amount leached presents any dangerous health risks, as well. Most countries of the world approve the use of dental amalgams, although Norway, Sweden and Denmark have banned these types of fillings over environmental concerns.
Amalgam fillings are easy to use, durable, long lasting and relatively inexpensive when compared to resin composites. Although resin composites are improving in strength, concerns are being raised about the effects of plastic chemicals used in composite resins.
In an American Dental Association News article this month, the ADA commended those who developed the International Mercury Treaty in Geneva, a treaty which had been under negotiation for four years. Dr. Robert A. Faiella, president of the ADA stated, “The ADA is gratified that the treaty conditions pertaining to dental amalgam protect this important treatment option without restrictions for our patients while balancing the need to protect the environment. It is vital for people throughout the world to continue to have access to a safe, durable, affordable treatment for tooth decay.”
The treaty does call for phasing down the use of dental amalgams and includes ways to decrease the use of this type of filling, which include: setting national objectives aimed at dental caries prevention and health promotion thereby minimizing the need for dental restoration; promoting the use of cost-effective, mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration; promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restoration; and promoting the use of better environmental practices in dental facilities to reduce releases of mercury and mercury compounds to water and land.