Banning amalgam could increase U.S. dental costs by $8 billion a year

Aug. 15, 2007
Potential increase is 10 percent of current dental expenditures.

CHICAGO--A study in the current issue of Public Health Reports journal examines the potential economic impact of a ban or restriction on the use of dental amalgam, a material commonly used to fill cavities.

The authors conclude that U.S. dental care costs would increase by as much as $8.2 billion in the first year alone--10 percent of current dental expenditures--if amalgam were no longer available as a treatment option.

Dental amalgam contains a mixture of metals, including mercury, which combine to form a stable alloy that dentists have used safely for more than 150 years to fill cavities.

Numerous peer-reviewed, scientific studies, including those published as recently as 2006 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, attest to amalgam's safety and efficacy, leading health experts to recommend its continued availability as an option for treating dental decay.

Dr. L. Jackson Brown, a dentist, economist, epidemiologist and former American Dental Association managing vice president for health policy agrees.

"The dental community and public health dentists have long known that amalgam restorations are a vital component in the arsenal to manage dental disease. This study documents the large impact the absence of amalgam would have," he said.

A small group of activists has for years called on state and federal governments to ban amalgam, claiming, with no credible scientific basis, that it causes systemic diseases. The ADA and numerous state, national and international health authorities oppose such proposals.

"Dental care would cost more, and untreated caries (dental decay) is likely to increase," said Dr. Brown. "Unfortunately, this impact would fall disproportionately on the disadvantaged populations."

The article, "Economic Impact of Regulating the Use of Amalgam Restorations," can be viewed on the ADA's Web site at The study was funded by the ADA and the California Dental Association.

For more information about the ADA, visit the association's Web site at American Dental Association.