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The Amalgam Controversy

Written by Adam Zewe

The use of amalgam for dental restorations has been a contentious topic since the material was brought to the United States in 1833. Opponents, including the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), argue that mercury exposure from amalgam restorations can cause negative health effects. They, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), are concerned about the disposal of mercury from amalgam, which could contaminate water supplies.

Supporters, like the American Dental Association (ADA), contest that amalgam is durable, cheap and easy to use. They cite the fact that scientists have reported conflicting results about the level of mercury exposure and point to a 2002 statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that said "no valid scientific evidence has shown that amalgams cause harm to patients with dental restorations, except in the rare case of allergy."

"In my 40 years of practice and 38 years of teaching, I've had the chance to place countless restorations. They have included acrylic resin, composite resin, cast gold, cast base metal, porcelain and amalgam. They each met a need for the time and clinical situation, and with the cost/time/longevity considerations kept in mind, amalgam has stood the test of time. Primarily for cosmetic reasons the cast metal and amalgam restorations have lost favor with patients, but in some clinical situations, amalgam is still an excellent choice for a long term, quality restoration," remarks Associate Professor John Bradbury, DDS.

"I got away from amalgam about 25 years ago simply because, done properly and in the right situations, I believe that adhesive dentistry is better for teeth. It enables us to do more conservative dentistry. It bonds to tooth structure, it is easily repairable without replacing an entire restoration and it satisfies the aesthetic demands of our patients," states Assistant Professor Ira Bloom, DDS.

Drs. Bradbury and Bloom, along with a panel of faculty members and dental industry leaders, will debate the safety of amalgam restorations and other hot-button issues at the Hot Topics in Dentistry: Town Hall Meeting and Panel Discussion during All Alumni Reunion Weekend. The event will be held on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Moderated by Dean Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, the lively discussion promises to be both entertaining and informative.

Click here to register online.

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