It wasn’t all that long ago that supporting mercury-free dentistry would, at minimum, brand you as a bit of a renegade, an outsider, an oddball.

Then things began changing quickly, starting with the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This treaty was signed by well over 100 nations and included provisions for a phase-down of this dental material.

Not long after, the European Union banned the use of amalgam for kids, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers. A few years later, the US followed suit, with the FDA changing its guidance to limit amalgam’s use not only for these populations but also people with certain pre-existing health problems or sensitivity to any components of dental amalgam.

This was apparently the motivation for the world’s two largest dental product manufacturers to quit the amalgam biz. Meantime, a Children’s Amendment was added to the Minamata Convention, globally echoing key parts of the EU ban and revised FDA guidance.

And now, the American Dental Association seems to have finally begun changing its tune about amalgam, as well.

Historically, the ADA has championed amalgam. In fact, the group itself was originally formed by dentists who objected to the American Society of Dental Surgeons’ position against filling teeth with mercury. It is also a double amalgam patent holder. Yet even they are starting to pivot.

According to an email sent out by Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice just before Christmas, there are three recent changes worth noting:

  • The ADA no longer claims that amalgam “does not pose a health hazard.” They don’t yet accept that it IS a health hazard, of course, and continue to recommend that dentists discuss all restorative options with their patients. Still, it’s a significant revision.
  • The ADA now declares support for reducing environmental mercury “as set forth in the Minamata Convention on Mercury…as a common good.” Unfortunately, they did not endorse the Children’s Amendment, which itself would go a long way toward reducing mercury pollution by the dental industry.
  • The ADA has withdrawn its policy of helping dental boards go after mercury-free dentists. What they have yet to do, Charlie wrote, is to “apologize to America’s mercury-free dentists and thank them for bringing their profession into the 21st century.”

Frankly, we don’t expect any such apology, nor do we necessarily need one. The gratitude of our patients is more than enough acknowledgment for doing the right thing by them, whether it’s removing old amalgams safely or using only biocompatible materials to begin with.

 

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