ADA backs the American Public Health Association’s stance on dental amalgam

November 8, 2012
Issue 11

Both groups agree amalgam is a safe, durable, effective caries treatment.

Both groups agree amalgam is a safe, durable, effective caries treatment.

Amalgam has been an effective, economical form of treating dental caries for many decades, yet there are those who have questioned its safety at times. But today the ADA released a statement in support of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) recent policy statement affirming that dental amalgam is safe and effective in treating dental cavities.

The APHA policy notes that amalgam’s contribution to environmental mercury contamination is minimal, and that limiting or curtailing its availability could have negative health consequences, particularly in low-income areas.

“As the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world, APHA’s credibility in matters concerning public health is unmatched,” said ADA President Dr. Robert Faiella, MMSc. “That’s why this latest policy statement is particularly significant.”

The ADA agrees with the conclusions found in the APHA’s interim policy-made official on Oct. 30-including its recommendation that dental educational institutions and programs continue to incorporate training in the handling of dental amalgam into their curricula, and that local regulatory agencies work with dental professionals to implement best practices for handling and disposing amalgam. The ADA has developed best practices for the handling of amalgam waste and supports the use of amalgam separators in the dental office setting.

Dental amalgam is a commonly used cavity filling material made by combining silver, copper, tin and elemental mercury. Dentists value amalgam for its durability and easy placement. It often is the material of choice when treating large cavities in back teeth or for patients, such as young children or people with some disabilities, who have difficulty keeping still or following instructions during treatment.   

“The science available to us overwhelmingly supports the safety and efficacy of dental amalgam, and it should continue to be made available to dentists and their patients,” Dr. Faiella said. “APHA’s new policy further vindicates the ADA’s own long-standing and scientifically based policy.”

The ADA continues to stress the need for preventive measures as more effective and less expensive than surgical intervention in dealing with oral disease. Community water fluoridation, dental sealants, and education about basic preventive behaviors all will dramatically improve the health of those suffering with untreated disease and, more important, stop disease before it starts.  

“The ADA hopes to see a reduction in the demand for amalgam and all restorative materials by preventing dental disease in the first place,” Dr. Faiella said. “Ultimately, prevention will be the only solution to the profound disparity in oral health worldwide.”

More information on the newest APHA policy on amalgam is available online at http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy.