FDA chews on debate over dental amalgams

Written by Jeffrey Wolf

IRVING, Texas – The FDA is listening to people worried about
toxic teeth. Dentists say some fillings could be harmful to your health
and fillings are big business. Seventy eight percent of Americans have
at least one cavity by the time they are 17.

Most people like the newer, white composite fillings that
blend in with their teeth, but they’re more expensive and not fully
covered by all insurance plans.


So, millions of Americans still go with the silver dental amalgams and those contain mercury. That’s what’s sparking concern.

FDA officials recently held a town hall meeting in Texas to hear people’s concerns.

“It is just beyond my comprehension why the FDA is not outlawing these,” Virginia Pritchett, a dental patient, said.

Pritchett says she’s had many health problems because of the silver dental amalgams.

“They wrecked my immune system,” she said. “The government’s always
giving warnings on mercury poisoning in fish. If you can’t eat it in
fish, then what in the daylights is it doing belonging, why is it in
your mouth? It doesn’t make any sense.”

The government itself is trying to make sense of it all, so FDA
officials listened to concerned patients and dentists. They are also
taking advice from an advisory panel.

“The question is whether or not dental amalgams should be banned
altogether. Now the panel did not recommend that. They did point out
that there may be certain populations who are more sensitive to dental
amalgam,” Jeff Shuren from the FDA said.


The American Dental Association said in a statement, “Other than
maybe allergic reactions, there’s no evidence at all of any ill health
effects. It’s not elemental mercury that just leaks into the body.”

Other countries have outlawed amalgam fillings, but the U.S. is still debating it.

Pritchett hopes the FDA will seriously consider a ban.

“I wanted them to see me as a person. I wanted to be a face that got up and talked instead of just a piece of paper,” she said.

The FDA points out that millions of Americans who have gotten dental
amalgams have not reported any health problems. Officials say certain
people, like young children and pregnant women, may be more sensitive.

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