California dentists are taking strong issue with Congresswoman Diane Watson's (32nd Congressional District), assertions this week that there is a conspiracy regarding the use of amalgam as a restorative material for decaying teeth. The legislator held a press conference in Los Angeles November 5th, to announce a bill to prohibit using amalgam for dental fillings. Unfortunately, many of the statements Watson made in her remarks and distributed in her press materials are unproven and untrue. This could mislead and scare consumers, says the California Dental Association (CDA).
"Regrettably, Congresswoman Watson's comments regarding amalgam are very misleading for California consumers," says Steven Chan, DDS, CDA president-elect. "We encourage dialogue and discussion on the amalgam issue, it is imperative that the information disseminated to the public be absolutely correct and clear" added Dr. Chan.
Specifically, CDA stressed two false allegations raised by Watson: that there is a collusion between the American Dental Association (ADA) and amalgam manufacturers for the ADA's financial gain, and that the ADA is "conspiring" to withhold from the public the fact that mercury is present in dental amalgams.
"One of the falsehoods Watson implies is the connection between the ADA and the manufacturers of amalgam -- that it is a mass conspiracy of financial gain. This is simply untrue," said Dr. Chan. "The fact is, the connection to which she refers is the highly regarded ADA Seal of Acceptance program. The American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance Program has helped identify effective oral health care products for more than 60 years. The total cost to maintain the Seal program is approximately $1.5 million annually, of which a total of approximately $5,100 per year is generated from amalgam manufacturers. Let me make this clear," said Dr. Chan. "The ADA does not profit from giving its seal of approval to dental products."
CDA continues to stand by its position on the safety, efficacy and value of amalgam fillings to dental consumers. The Association recognizes that while dental amalgam contains mercury, current scientific evidence does not support the contention that the mercury contained in amalgam causes serious illnesses or disease.
"Education of the public regarding dental health and the care that is available to them is a high priority to CDA and other health professionals," said Jack Broussard, DDS, CDA President. "To imply that an entire healthcare profession would attempt to deceive or mislead the public is reprehensible. This claim would require the collusion of organized dentistry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and a variety of worldwide health organizations," he said.
Dr. Chan also points to Watson's inaccuracy with regards to the statement that the ATSDR recommends the removal of amalgam from consumer's teeth. Its report, titled "Toxicological Profile for Mercury" (Update 1999), stipulates on page 23 that "the practice of having all your dental amalgam fillings replaced with non-mercury filling materials just to remove the possibility of mercury exposure is not recommended by ATSDR."
World-renowned dental researchers from the UCLA and USC Schools of dentistry concur that Watson's statements are misleading, including Dr. Harold Slavkin, DDS, PhD, Dean at the USC School of Dentistry and former director of the NICDR in Washington, D.C.
The Restorative Dental Materials Fact Sheet Watson referred to was required by legislation in 1992 to provide a comparative study of restorative materials to the consumer, describing the differences in durability and cost of these dental materials. In compliance with this legislation, The Dental Board created a fact sheet in 1993 and distributed an updated version to all dentists on October 31, 200l. Watson also apparently misrepresented the California Dental Board, which will likely prepare a response to Watson's allegations with regard to the restorative materials fact sheet.
CDA recently launched a public awareness campaign to stress the importance of discussion and dialogue between patients and their dentists. Consumers seeking more information on amalgam and other dental topics should call (800) CDA-SMILE or visit www.smilecalifornia.org.