I-Team Report:

Chinese Dental Products May Hide Danger

By Mike Owens, I-Team Reporter
created: 3/12/2008 12:44:06 PM

First it was lead in toys, then plastic in pet food, and now, it’s another product from China that’s possibly contaminated.

NewsChannel Five I-Team reporter Mike Owens says the possibly contaminated products are dental work, like crowns and bridges that are being made in China.

Chinese companies are advertising heavily in the U.S., promoting their dental labs to dentists and other dental labs.

In St. Louis, Chuck DiMaria, a certified dental technician who runs DiMaria Dental Lab, says the issue came to a head several weeks ago, when an Ohio woman, who was suffering from mouth pain, had a newly installed crown examined, and it turned out to have lead in it.

The woman suffered swelling and mouth pain, unrelated to the pain associated with dental work.

Now, there are efforts underway to force dentists to explain where they are buying their dental crowns and bridges. Dentist Mike Grasso of west St. Louis County says a patient has a right to know where any dental implants or crowns were made.

Grasso says he wouldn’t put anything in any patient’s mouth that he wouldn’t put in his family’s or his own.

DiMaria says not only has lead been found in some Chinese work, but so has fecal bacteria. He says his work is sterilized before it is shipped, but apparently that’s not the case for the Chinese goods.

There are two dental lab associations leading the charge against the Chinese products. The NADL, the National Association of Dental Labs, is worried that its members will be hurt by the imports, not only by losing business, but through negative publicity about implants that contain lead.

The other group is called the ACDLA, which stands for the American Cosmetic Dental Lab Associate, a Chicago group that has pushed for greater regulation of dental labs.

The Chinese labs are dramatically undercutting the American prices. In some cases, the price of Chinese-made teeth is 20 percent of the American-made goods. But DiMaria says the dental labs are acting as brokers, and the dentists buying from China outright are not passing the savings along. DiMaria says they are increasing profits at the expense of patients.

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