What’s In Your Crown?

by | Feb 7, 2009 | Biocompatibility, Dental Restorations | 4 comments

In March 2008, a television investigative reporter filed an intriguing story that caught my eye due to the nature of its subject matter. The title of his report was, “Chinese Dental Products May Hide Danger.”

An Ohio woman, who was suffering from mouth pain, had a newly installed crown examined. It was made in China and it turned out to have lead in it. Fecal bacteria was also found to be present in the metal alloy.

To begin with, lead has no place in dentistry. It is a toxin that has the ability to impede the development and function of every organ and system in the body. Even tiny amounts of lead can be dangerous to a person’s health. Lead’s effects on the body can be devastating and irreversible.

Unfortunately, economics can sometimes play a role in our decision making process. In an attempt to reduce costs, it’s not uncommon to find dental laboratories, and even dentists, outsourcing their crowns and bridgework to other countries including China.

Due to the record high costs of precious metals that we use in dentistry, i.e., gold, platinum and silver, finding lower prices for materials and alternative sources for fabricating dental products is one alternative to U.S. prices and labs. However, is it the right action to take?

What type of regulations and standards are being set by the dental profession to monitor the quality and safety of the dental materials used and fabrication procedures in other countries? I believe it is crucial to the integrity of our profession, and the dental laboratories in the U.S., to protect our patients from unregulated and unsanitary conditions that may infiltrate the United States by the use of inferior techniques and dental products from other countries.

In 2005, I made the decision to create our own dental laboratory. The purpose of this move was two-fold.

Quality Control. Having a laboratory on-site provides better control and communications between the dentist, the patient and the laboratory technicians for each and every dental product that’s fabricated. Modifications in colors and shades, contours and shapes of crowns and bridgework can be easily corrected, when needed, while the patient is still in the dental chair. Our laboratory takes pride in providing a quality product for all our patients.

Selecting Laboratory Materials. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen just how important it is to use bio-compatible dental materials in our patients’ mouths. Although this may not be a major concern for most dentists and dental laboratories in this country at this time, as a biological dentist, I am absolutely convinced that careful choices in materials, especially the metal alloys, is crucial to a patient’s long term health and wellness.

In our laboratory, we use an alloy called Holistic gold. This product contains two precious metals: approx. 88% gold and 11% platinum. Trace amounts of Iridium, Indium and Rhodium are present in less than 1% and are evaporated during the firing process.

I strongly believe these metals still provide the most bio-compatible materials available for patients today. MRT (Materials Reactivity Testing for blood compatibility) results reveal this product to be 98 – 99% compatible with all patients that use this material. Although cheaper metal products can be used, thus lowering the cost of a dentist’s laboratory bills, substituting these precious metals, i.e., gold/platinum for non precious, heavy metal alloys such as nickel, palladium, aluminum, copper and beryllium, is simply not acceptable in our office.

Instead of porcelain, which is used for the tooth colored portion of crowns, we use Belleglass NG or Diamond Crown. Both of these materials are hard, durable, composite resins that offer excellent esthetics for our patients. They are also considered to be highly compatible dental materials when placed in the oral cavity.

An interesting note about the above mentioned TV broadcast is that after that story was aired, several patients called our office the next morning to inquire about the materials we used in their own crowns and bridge work. I think there was a sense of relief when we informed them of the precious metals used in their mouths.

Sensitivity tests can also be ordered if you suspect that you have any allergies to specific metal alloys.

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