Something very interesting came to my attention today. After rifling through a bunch of discarded dental magazines, I came across the August edition of the British Dental Journal. Yeah and…?
In it was an article, “Managing the phase-down of amalgam”. What what what??? They’re phasing out metal fillings, after years of defending the use of mercury filled…well, fillings? That doesn’t look good.
I recently blogged about mercury in boob milk and speculated on what this means for concerned mothers. So does this new bit of revelation-ary news make any difference? I think it does but let me expand on the article more.
The Minamata Convention has agreed a world wide ban on the production, export and import of products that contain mercury such as batteries, switches, toys, soaps and cosmetics (I had no idea mercury was in some soaps and cosmetics! Scary!) and, of course, dental amalgam. Dental amalgam will be ‘phased out’ and opposed to overnight stoppage.
The Minamata Convention was brought about after an a public and environmental disaster occurred in Japan following the second world war. Chemical and heavy industry flourished and with it mercury was being discharged into the surrounding environment from a factory called Minamata. It polluted the waters and the fish. The local population that ate the fish become ill with severe damage to the nervous system causing symptoms such as paralysis, sudden inability to eat or talk, impaired hearing and vision. Minamata disease was born. 60 years on, The Minamata Convention has agreed on a legally binding document between 147 governments on the Minamata Convention on Mercury. In a nutshell. From what I can fathom.
Various national and international dental organisations maintain that the use of mercury in dental restorations is safe, however, the time has come when dental practice has to move towards more preventative, minimally invasive methods, rather than a ‘drill and fill’ workforce.
Techniques in dentistry are changing from a ‘cavity-preparation-drill-everything-out-plus-a-bit-more-and-make-a-nice-retentive-undercut’ to just ‘scoop-out-the-soft-shit-and-seal-it-in’. What they have discovered is that you don’t have to drill all the gunge out, in fact you can leave a large amount of it in, because properly sealed with a ‘white’ filling, the bacteria become entombed, lacking a nutrient supply and therefore die a slow and painful death. Yes, this does mean you’ll have lots of microscopic dead bacteria in your tooth but it will also mean that you won’t have to endure a large portion of time having your tooth drilled out and fillings will become tooth coloured.
This is so much more important in paediatric dentistry – not only is it scary for children to have a tooth drilled and filled, a large number of them have to be done under GA or sedation. Minimally invasive dentistry, more freely available to both NHS and private patients, will (hopefully) mean less scary experiences, which will equal less phobias, which will equal more adults accessing dental care, which will equal better oral health, which will equal better overall health. That’s my equation anyway.
It is only be a good thing to phase out dental amalgam, whatever the reason may be.