Dentists On Phasing Out Of Mercury Fillings28 Jun 2018
The use of dental amalgam fillings – silver coloured fillings which contains several metals including mercury – is to be phased down from Sunday the 1st of July.
In future dentists will no longer use dental amalgam on the teeth of children under 15 or pregnant or breastfeeding women unless deemed strictly necessary by a dentist on medical grounds.
The President of the Irish Dental Association Dr Kieran O’Connor said the new regulations are being brought in primarily for environmental reasons with the aim of reducing the amount of mercury in the environment.
“Five years ago, Ireland was a signatory to the Minamata Convention and the new EU regulations governing dental amalgam stems from the phased implementation of that United Nations agreement.”
“The Convention brought about a global agreement to reduce environmental contamination caused by mercury. It includes a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones and the phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes.”
“Placing or removing amalgam fillings can cause mercury waste to be released into the environment and that is why its use is being phased down. However, it will continue to be a treatment option for all other patients for the time being” he said.
Dr Eamon Croke, who helped to produce the IDA’s patient information leaflet on this issue, said dental amalgam fillings are safe, strong and long lasting.
“Dental amalgam has been in use for over 150 years and its safety and reliability has been well researched. In certain circumstances a dental amalgam filling may be the best option to achieve a safe and satisfactory outcome and if that is the case the dentist will explain why. However, if a patient doesn’t agree they should say it to their dentist so alternative arrangements can be put in place. Medical card patients should also note that dentists are not permitted to provide them with white fillings for their back teeth” he said.
“Many people who have amalgam fillings may be wondering about their safety. Many will have had these fillings for a long time and they will be working very well. Their removal is to be avoided because it usually leads to the creation of a larger cavity.”
“While the use of amalgam fillings may eventually stop completely, further research and testing of other filling materials is needed before amalgam can be replaced. Of course, the best solution is to avoid the need for fillings altogether. The best way to do this is to reduce the number of times you eat or drink sugar-containing food or drink, brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and drink tap water which has teeth-protecting fluoride in it” Dr Croke said.
Hundreds of thousands not availing of dental benefits
Eight out of ten Irish adults are entitled to a free dental examination each year under the PRSI or medical card scheme, but very many people do not avail of that or a one-off contribution which the PRSI scheme pays towards cleaning.
Dr O’Connor said the IDA is particularly concerned at the low numbers of medical card patients which avail of the free examination.
“There are 1.3 million medical card patients in the country but figures for 2017 show that only 410,000 people availed of the service which is less than a third. This is a real indictment of the current scheme which is twenty-four years old and further evidence that the public has lost confidence in it.
“We have called on the HSE to work with us on designing a new scheme which will actively promote a good diet and oral health habits for all medical card patients and we would urge them to begin this important work immediately” Dr O’Connor concluded.
For further Information
Contact Kieran Garry