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FDA Reconsidering Safety of Mercury Dental Fillings

Opponents Say Mercury in the Fillings Harm Health; Dentists Disagree
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 14, 2010 -- An FDA panel met today to begin hearing testimony regarding the agency’s position that dental fillings that contain mercury pose no danger to the public.

In 2009, the FDA declared the fillings, known as dental amalgams, safe. However, they have since received several petitions criticizing that decision.

Of particular concern to the petitioners, who represented both consumers and dentists, was the quality of the data that the FDA used in making its decision, as well as the levels below which mercury absorption could be considered safe. They were also critical of the lack of data regarding the risks that the amalgams may pose to pregnant women and their unborn children, breastfed infants, and children 6 years old and younger.

“We need to have an intense look at whether or not we can even establish safety,” said James Turner, an attorney speaking on behalf of Citizens for Health, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Turner and his group would like to see dental amalgams reclassified as category III medical devices, which would effectively ban them from the market until approved by the FDA after being deemed both safe and effective.

Many of those who spoke during the public hearing portion of today’s proceedings shared his view.

“Why is this poisonous element being drilled into the mouths of pregnant women and children?” asked Amanda Just of Waterford, Conn., who told the panel that the 13 dental amalgams she once had in her mouth had made her severely ill due to mercury toxicity. “It’s a form of poison that nearly destroyed my life.”

On the other side of the issue were several dentists who support the continued use of dental amalgams, telling the panel that they are safe, that they last longer and require less maintenance than alternative fillings, and that they would not hesitate to use them for themselves or for family members.

“I have silver fillings [dental amalgams containing mercury] in my mouth, and I am completely comfortable with that,” said Carlisle, Pa., dentist William Spruill, DDS, who held that restrictions on dental amalgams would place an unnecessary burden on people seeking care.

Tomorrow morning, the panel will reconvene for another round of public hearings before deliberating what constitutes a safe level of mercury absorption, how best to measure it, and what can be concluded from existing studies about the potential risks posed by exposure to mercury contained in the fillings.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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