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    Making the transition to mercury-free dentistry

    How the Minamata Convention is prepping the world of dentistry for an amalgam-free future.

    The new Minamata Convention on Mercury, which entered into legal force in August 2017, envisions a transition to a mercury-free environment for all. As you probably know, its dental amalgam provisions require each party to the treaty, including the United States, to reduce amalgam use. But you might not know that the convention also lays out a road map that can benefit the dental profession in many ways.

    As the Minamata Convention is implemented in the United States and around the world, here’s what dentists can to look forward to.

    1. Practicing the modern dentistry you want to practice

    As part of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, we’ve worked with a lot of dentists, from private practitioners to public health providers — and they’re excited about new dental technology, including the latest generation of mercury-free fillings. But third-party payers, including dental insurance policies and government programs, often do not fully cover mercury-free fillings in posterior teeth, forcing dentists into a Scylla-Charybdis choice: turn away patients who cannot afford to pay more than their insurance covers or use a polluting mercury product in their offices. The state of Connecticut even refuses to permit amalgam-free dentists to serve adult Medicaid patients, telling them, “If your office cannot provide amalgam services, please have your patients call the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership ... to locate a new dental home.”  

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    The Minamata Convention urges countries to stop these third-party payers from interfering with how dentists practice by “Discouraging insurance policies and programmes that favour dental amalgam use over mercury-free dental restoration” and “Encouraging insurance policies and programmes that favour the use of quality alternatives to dental amalgam for dental restoration.” This will free dentists to practice the 21st-century dentistry that they want to practice — and that their patients deserve. 

    2. Having more restorative choices

    AmalgamNecessity is the mother of invention, and nowhere is this more true than in the dynamic world of dentistry. Already a range of mercury-free restorative options have revolutionized the way dentists practice. As the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) explains, mercury-free dental fillings “have facilitated a radical change in the concepts of restorative dentistry through the introduction of more minimally invasive techniques and the associated retention of more tooth substance when treating caries.” A World Health Organization report sums it up: “Adhesive resin materials allow for less tooth destruction and, as a result, a longer survival of the tooth itself.”

    The Minamata Convention gives dental innovation an extra boost, calling on countries to do even more by “Promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restoration.” The end result will be more – and better – restorative choices for dentists and their patients.

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    Charlie Brown
    Charlie Brown, [email protected], is president, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, www.mercuryfreedentistry.net.
    Sylvia K. Dove
    Sylvia Dove is associate attorney, Consumers for Dental Choice, www.mercury-free.org.


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