Following today’s European Parliament vote to ban dental amalgam from 1 January 2025, the profession has warned of the impact on UK dental services.
Silver amalgam is currently the most common material for NHS permanent fillings across the UK. Fillings represent around a quarter of all courses of NHS treatment delivered in England, according to the British Dental Association (BDA), with amalgam used in around one third of procedures.
On 14 July, the European Commission adopted a proposal to revise the Mercury Regulation. This included introducing a total phase-out of the use of dental amalgam, and prohibiting the manufacture and export of dental amalgam from the EU from 1 January 2025 – five years earlier than expected.
Disruption and higher costs
Now, the BDA has warned of the adverse impact on the UK, especially Northern Ireland, which has the highest proportion of filled teeth of any UK nation.
Under post Brexit arrangements, Northern Ireland will be expected to phase out dental amalgam on the same basis as EU member states. Divergence means the rest of the UK faces disruption and higher costs given the impact on supply chains, but not a formal ban.
It is urging all four UK chief dental officers to work together and with the profession and industry to:
- Urgently address the impact of the direct application of the EU regulation to Northern Ireland
- Adopt a renewed focus on prevention to reduce the need for dental restorations
- Work with industry to secure an ongoing supply of amalgam
- Work with the BDA to ensure that there is no financial impact on dentists from the need to use alternative materials.
While the BDA supports a phase-down in dental amalgam, it believes this rapid phase-out is neither ‘feasible nor justifiable’
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘When we are set to lose a key weapon in the treatment of tooth decay all four UK governments appear asleep at the wheel.
‘When alternative materials can’t compete, this will add new costs and new uncertainties to practices already on the brink.
‘Without decisive action this could be the straw that breaks the back of NHS dentistry.’
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