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WHO releases report on dental materials, amalgam

A new report from the World Health Organization reinforces dental amalgam as a safe and effective restorative material and also notes the widespread public health impact of any proposed ban of the material.

The report, “Future Use of Materials For Dental Restoration” stems from a 2009 meeting in Geneva that the WHO Global Oral Health Program hosted jointly with the United Nation’s Environmental Program Global Mercury Partnership.

The two-day meeting highlighted the current scientific evidence on dental materials, including amalgam and non-amalgam restoratives, and gathered information for future recommendations on the use of dental restorative materials—stressing the need to avoid environmental pollution.

According to Dr. Daniel Meyer, senior vice president, ADA Division of Science/Professional Affairs, who was present in Geneva, the FDI worked diligently to keep the talk at the conference focused on prevention and improvement of restorative materials rather than banning amalgam. The result was the report’s conclusion that “dental amalgam remains a dental restorative material of choice.”

“Our goal was for the FDI, WHO, the public health communities and professional organizations concerned about health to put more emphasis on assessing risks and preventing oral diseases such as dental caries rather than just treating it. Fortunately, that’s what they did to help safeguard, promote and advance oral health care,” Dr. Meyer said.

The report rejected a call from those opposed to the continued availability of amalgam to ban its use, instead opting for a “phase down” of the material in hopes that improved prevention efforts worldwide will eventually decrease the need for all restorations. The report also reaffirmed the safety of amalgam, reinforcing the Association’s position—backed by with the FDA’s 2009 ruling—that the material is a safe and viable choice. It also stressed preventive methods such as fluoride, fluoride varnish and sealants, and emphasized the need for ongoing research to improve alternative materials.