The World Health Organization recommends a global phase out of dental mercury. In the WHO’s newly released 2009 report on “Future Use of Materials For Dental Restorations”. This is a great article by Charlie Brown from Consumers for Dental Choice. You can find a full view of the WHO Dental Materials report here.
In a clear sign that dentistry’s amalgam era is fading, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) just released its long-awaited report on dental amalgam. In Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration, WHO urges “a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam.
“[F]or many reasons,” WHO explains, “restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable.” The report describes three of these reasons in detail:
- WHO determines that amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury”: WHO concludes that amalgam poses a serious environmental health problem because amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment, including the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater, and soil. WHO says “When released from dental amalgam use into the environment through these pathways, mercury is transported globally and deposited. Mercury releases may then enter the human food chain especially via fish consumption.”
- WHO determines that amalgam raises “general health concerns”: While the report acknowledges that a few dental trade groups still believe amalgam is safe for all, the WHO report reaches a very different conclusion: “Amalgam has been associated with general health concerns.” The report observes, “According to the Norwegian Dental Biomaterials Adverse Reaction Unit, the majority of cases of side-effects of dental filling materials are linked with dental amalgam.”
- WHO determines that “materials alternative to dental amalgam are available”: WHO concludes that “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available” – and cites many studies indicating that they are superior to amalgam. For example, WHO says “recent data suggest that RBCs [resin-based composites] perform equally well” as amalgam. And compomers have a higher survival rate, says WHO, citing a study finding that 95% of compomers and 92% of amalgams survive after 4 years. Perhaps more important than the survival of the filling, WHO asserts that “Adhesive resin materials allow for less tooth destruction and, as a result, a longer survival of the tooth itself.”
We have come a long way. Less than a year ago, dental trade groups were circulating an unedited and unreviewed draft of this report to government officials, implying that it was WHO’s final position. But the draft was riddled with factual errors and scientifically unsupported claims. Consumers for Dental Choice – working with non-governmental organizations, scientists, and environmentalists from around the globe – organized a letter-writing campaign to insist that the draft be immediately withdrawn, accurately rewritten, and properly reviewed.
And it worked! Now WHO has removed all claims of amalgam’s safety. Now WHO has committed itself to “work for reduction of mercury and the development of a healthy environment.” Now “WHO will facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials.”
Thank you to everybody who urged WHO to take this important step to protect future generations from dental mercury.