Alternative materials to amalgam for fillings may have less negative impact on human health and the environment, according to a recently published report. The Health Care Research Collaborative report compared mercury-based dental fillings with alternatives currently available in the U.S. and found that the effects of mercury outweigh the known effects of resin-based composites and glass ionomer fillings.

“We found no evidence of a negative effect on patients’ health from either mercury amalgam or the alternatives used in restoration. Yet the alternatives were less hazardous to the general environment and the public’s health,” said Dr. Peter Orris, co-author of the report and professor of occupational and environmental health sciences.

On the basis of the current findings, mercury dental amalgam use contributes significantly to the environmental mercury burden and damages fetal neurological development during pregnancy, according to the investigators.

According to the report, dental offices were the source of 50 percent of all mercury pollution in 2003. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately 122,000 dental offices discharge about 3.7 tons of mercury each year.

“Unlike dental amalgam, environmental releases of constituents found in resin-based alternatives are expected to be very small, except in very special circumstances. Thus, exposure to resin-based alternative materials is expected to be, mostly, limited to patients and their dental care providers,” the report concludes.

The report recommends “a phase-out of virtually all usage of dental mercury,” which “must take into account the practical availability of alternative materials, the equipment needed to utilize non-mercury alternatives, the training of dentists to utilize these alternatives, and the costs to the patient and society.”

It further highlights that the use of alternative products is growing and some countries, such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, have banned amalgam already, except for specific individual cases.

The research collaborative was initiated by the University of Illinois, the Healthier Hospitals Initiative and Health Care Without Harm.

The report was published on June 13 on Health Care Without Harm’s website under the title “Mercury in Dental Amalgam and Resin-Based Alternatives: A Comparative Health Risk Evaluation.”

Health Care Without Harm is an international nonprofit association that promotes environmental responsibility in health care. It is coordinated by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health.

Original Source: Dental