FDA Classifies Dental Amalgam Fillings as Class II (Moderate Risk)
Today (Tuesday, July 28th, 2009) the FDA “issued a final regulation classifying dental amalgam and its component parts – elemental mercury and a powder alloy—used in dental fillings. While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients. The regulation classifies dental amalgam into Class II (moderate risk).” (http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm173992.htm)
Moments later, the ADA issued a press release stating it agrees with the FDA’s decision.
So what does this mean for you? It means that dental amalgam fillings (often referred to as mercury fillings or silver fillings) will still be used in most dental offices despite the potential long term health risks to patients and workers alike.
“But if there are potential long term health risks, why didn’t the FDA ban the fillings?”
Good question. In fact, the FDA acknowledged the risks associated with mercury fillings when they issued their decision. However, they decided that the risk didn’t outweigh the difficulties of banning the fillings.
“Dental amalgam contains elemental mercury. It releases low levels of mercury vapor that can be inhaled.” (http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DentalProducts/DentalAmalgam/ucm171094.htm)
The FDA admits that dental amalgam fillings release low levels of mercury vapors. Because Mercury is a heavy metal, low levels of mercury vapors have been proven to accumulate in the body. Over time, that low level surpasses the “safe” amount of mercury specified by the FDA and can cause long term chronic health and neurological problems.
The bottom line? Politics have once again stood in the way of science and have put the public at risk for health problems.
The good news? You still have a choice. It’s actually quite similar to bans on smoking in public places: in states that still allowing smoking in restaurants, you have the choice to eat at another restaurant to avoid the health issues associated with second hand smoke. In the case of dental amalgam fillings (and the mercury vapor present in dental offices that place the fillings), you can choose to visit a dentist that doesn’t work with mercury.
While the classification by the FDA is a defeat in the fight against mercury, you still have options. And by choosing a mercury-free dentist, you are making the biggest stand of all.
PS: If you’d like to read the entire classification of Dental Amalgam by the FDA, click here: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DentalProducts/DentalAmalgam/UCM174024.pdf.
PPS: The FDA did today reclassify the mercury component of dental amalgam fillings from Class I (low risk) to Class II (moderate risk).