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Amid ever-growing awareness of the risk mercury amalgam poses to your health and the health of the environment, and with many other countries in the process of phasing it out, here in the states, the FDA has seemed stuck and silent on the issue. 

But last week, an FDA advisory committee met to discuss problems associated with metal implants, including mercury amalgam fillings, hearing testimony from a range of experts and advocates. 

Committee members expressed particular concern about the disproportionate use of amalgam in disadvantaged populations. Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, co-chair of the Commission on Environmental Health of the National Medical Association, was one who spoke on this matter.  

Dentistry has become two-tiered in America, with the majority of people receiving mercury-free dentistry while many soldiers and sailors and their families, prisoners, residents of Indian reservations, and Medicaid families are getting mercury fillings.

Dr. Mark Dykewicz, professor of allergy and immunology at St. Louis University, talked about how many of these populations are not told about the risks these “silver” fillings pose for themselves and their families. 

I think it’s unconscionable that Medicaid children in some states are forced to get amalgam and may not be offered alternatives in an informed consent with their parents. Do we wait to see that there are neurocognitive problems before we take some action?

elemental mercuryAlthough a handful of states do require dentists to make information available on the risks and benefits of amalgam, the FDA’s Center for Devices currently allows amalgam to be used in children without any warning to their parents, even as the “evidence is there” to indicate dental amalgam isn’t fully safe, according to Melissa McDiarmid, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. McDiarmid testified that “we need to stop planting them in particularly vulnerable populations.”

Ultimately, the advisory committee did recommend that the FDA provide information to patients about the risks of dental amalgam. Eric Uram, organizer of the Chicago Declaration to End Mercury Use in the Dental Industry, which persuaded the FDA to re-open the amalgam issue, said, “We look forward to working with FDA on implementing the committee’s recommendations.”

As the FDA considers these recommendations and continues to monitor and evaluate new data, they’re also still seeking input from consumers. Charlie Brown of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry explained the importance of continuing to provide comments to the FDA.

The FDA has a history of not acting on advisory committee recommendations unless we keep them on the agency’s plate. You can help with that by submitting a public comment to FDA explaining why it is important to warn patients about amalgam’s mercury before this toxin is implanted in their teeth.

If you want to see stories other folks have shared about amalgam, here’s what the FDA has collected so far. More importantly, if you have a mercury amalgam experience to share, now is the time to let them know that mercury has got to go!

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