US urged to re-investigate dental amalgam row

Medical authorities in the US may investigate further the medical controversy surrounding mercury amalgam dental fillings.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has announced that the agency should look at updated data which may indicate possible medical problems for patients.

This follows a public hearing in which consumer and dental groups testified, claiming the FDA used flawed science when it set the current guidelines for mercury safety levels.

The panel recommended the FDA look at information updated since the agency ruled in 2009 that the mercury in dental fillings is not harmful.

Committee members did however note that the FDA’s decision was based on information available at the time.

The committee also stressed that more studies need to be done on amalgam fillings, especially in children.

Public pressure has prompted the panel’s review.

In its final rule, the FDA concluded clinical studies did not establish a causal link between dental amalgam and health problems in people age six and older.

But it did add that developing foetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the neurotoxin.

Mercury toxicity has been well documented, but when it comes to amalgam fillings there is little data.

Many dentists favour these fillings because they are cheap, easy to put in place and durable.

Dental professionals also argue that mercury fillings last longer than resin composites, and are easier on the tooth.

The American Dental Association agrees with the FDA that amalgam fillings are safe.

Yet, some experts say mercury from these fillings penetrates into the body and damages human cells, especially in the brain, bones and kidneys.

Just under two years ago, England’s chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft dismissed a TV documentary highlighting the dangers involving mercury amalgam as ‘scare mongering’ and ‘sensationalist’.

Dr Cockcroft, who appeared in the episode of ITV’s Tonight programme, was unhappy with what was broadcast.

At the time, the BDA was also quick to reassure patients about the safety of mercury amalgam fillings following the programme’s screening on 16 February 2009.

Although the FDA advisory committee’s recommendations will go to the FDA board for consideration, the board does not have to follow them. Traditionally, however, it has.

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