The Maine Board of Dental Practice may be engaging in antitrust violations, according to a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission by three nonprofit groups — Consumers for Dental Choice, Organic Consumers Association and Mercury Policy Project. At issue is what the complaint calls two competitive factions that have divided modern day dentists: those who use mercury and those who do not.
“The differences are so distinct,” the petition notes, “that they can be classified into competitive submarkets.” But the complaint alleges that the Maine Board of Dental Practice “is indisputably on one side — working to keep public funds going to that faction of dentists and not enforcing distribution of the Maine amalgam fact sheet, as required by law.”1
State Dental Board Accused of Breaking Mercury Laws
State law requires that dentists who use amalgam, or mercury, fillings (also known, misleadingly, as “silver” fillings) give patients a fact sheet approved by the state, which is intended to clarify “advantages or disadvantages” of the use of mercury, mercury amalgams and other materials used for dental fillings.2
The Maine fact sheet was made because dentists using amalgams were referring to them as silver fillings, a misleading statement that was putting patients at risk. According to the petition, only 11% of dentists tell their patients that amalgam contains mercury.
Further, African-American patients are three times less likely to be told that amalgam contains mercury, as are patients making under $50,000 a year.3 According to the petition:4
“Aware that dentists are concealing amalgam’s mercury from patients — and/or calling them silver fillings — the Maine Legislature enacted a statute applicable only to the amalgam-users, instructing the Director of Health to write a fact sheet about amalgam’s contents, risks, and alternatives, and directing that the dentists still using amalgam give it to patients and post it on the wall of the clinic.”
The petition alleges, but, that the Maine dental board is engaging in a variety of actions to evade enforcing this requirement. In a news release, it’s stated:5
“For example, the dental board advises dentists that compliance with the mandate is optional (although it is required), and the board held a secret vote to ally with the Maine Dental Association to defeat a state law that would shift MaineCare to mercury-free dentistry.
The dental board has proposed a rule regarding disclosure, but it fails even to mention the Maine fact sheet law or the official fact sheet … ”
The petition sums up, “The board continues its combinations to keep the public uninformed, the fact sheet law unenforced, and the amalgam-using dentists shielded from the statutory mandate to post the state-prescribed fact sheet and to give to patients and parents/guardians.”6
Maine Dental Board ‘Not Above the Law’
The petition questions the FTC to investigate the Maine Board of Dental Practice to reveal whether they’re enforcing and adhering to the law — and suggests that if not, the state’s governor should appoint a new dental board. As noted by Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association, “The Maine Dental Board is not above the law.”7
Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, a former antitrust law specialist, further clarified, “The behavior of the Maine Dental Board raises serious antitrust questions because the board is protecting the income of the pro-mercury dentists. This board must redirect its loyalty from protecting sales of amalgam to protecting Maine’s families and consumers.”8
It’s essential for people to be aware of the right make up of “silver” fillings, as they are approximately 50% mercury. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal, one that can cause harmful effects to your nervous, digestive, respiratory and immune systems. It’s known to hurt both the kidneys and the lungs in humans.
The World Health Organization notes that health effects from mercury exposure include tremors, impaired vision and hearing, emotional instability, paralysis, insomnia and developmental deficits during fetal development.9
Mercury exposure has also been linked to attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood, with WHO noting, “[M]ercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur.”10 In other words, even very small doses of mercury may be harmful. It’s for this reason that, in 2018, the European Union banned the use of amalgam for children under 15 as well as for pregnant or nursing women.
Will FDA Finally End Amalgam for Children?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a sluggard when it comes to acting against mercury dental fillings. The 28-nation European Union stepped up in 2018 and eliminated dental mercury for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under age 15.
So, Charlie Brown launched a campaign in 2018 to bring the European Union’s example across the Atlantic. As Brown stated in an interview with me:
“The European Union, more than a year ago, finished amalgam for children under 15, and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. They required each member state — and there are 28 countries in the EU as of right now — to come up with a plot to go further.
We are saying to FDA, ‘Why are you lagging so far behind Europe? Why won’t you pay attention to the very treaty that the United States not only signed but was the first country in the world to ratify?’
As I said, the heat is building. We reckon we’re going to go, but they still have been way too close to the pro-mercury dentists. There’s no question. That’s the ADA. The ADA, but, doesn’t have the same clout they used to have because its own members are walking away.
Its own members are saying, ‘Why should I use amalgam just because you want me to? I don’t want to. My patients don’t want to. I don’t want to get people in my office sick.'”
I now have breaking news from Washington that could change things at FDA. Brown and his capable team had a series of meetings with FDA in 2018 and 2019.
Then — to his real credit — director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Jeff Shuren, assembled a panel of science advisers to convene and consider whether the science merits a new FDA policy on amalgam. Those hearings were held on November 13 and 14, 2019. Brown brought incredibly talented and diverse public speakers to testify, including:
Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, co-chair of the Commission on Environmental Health of the National Medical Association
Eric Uram of Chicago Declaration to End Use of Mercury in Dentistry
Reuben Warren, director of the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University (known historically as “the black Harvard”)
Karen Howard of the Organic and Natural Health Association
Sharon Lewis of Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice
Kristie Trousdale, deputy director of Children’s Environmental Health Network
Rochelle Diver of the International Indian Treaty Council
Jacquelynn Hawthorne, Los Angeles commissioner
Mary Starrett, Yamhill County, Oregon, commissioner
The science committee, by consensus, called on FDA to end its silence on amalgam, and to start getting information about amalgam’s risks to American patients, especially to vulnerable populations. But we have witnessed two decades of FDA inaction on amalgam, and a huge question looms: Will FDA ignore even its own scientific bodies?
Send Your Message to the FDA Today!
I urge you to take a moment to send your message to FDA. Call on the agency to listen to its own scientists and, this time, take action. You may comment now by clicking this button.
FDA must now choose what information to give directly to patients and parents, because so many pro-mercury dentists have not leveled with patients, or don’t read enough to know what to say. Please choose from these questions, and then write your comment to the FDA!
- Did your dentist tell you about amalgam’s mercury before implanting mercury fillings in your teeth or a family member’s teeth?
- Was amalgam deceptively marketed to you as “silver fillings”?
- Should FDA issue “direct-to-patient labeling” on amalgam to make sure accurate information about its mercury content and risks reaches patients?
- At the least, FDA must tell patients that amalgam is 50% mercury and that nontoxic alternatives are available.
- FDA should tell everyone that countries around the world, including next-door Canada, are either recommending against amalgam for children and pregnant women — or outright banning it for them.
Minamata Convention Impetus for Action Against Amalgam
In an intense three-year campaign (2010 through 2013), the global umbrella founded by Consumers for Dental Choice, the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, succeeded in securing a strong amalgam plot in that treaty. The Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into legal force in 2017, triggering conferences of the parties to implement it worldwide.
At the first Conference of the Parties of the Minamata Convention, held in Geneva last October, Brown challenged the world to equal or exceed the new amalgam policy of the EU, launching the “Make Dental Amalgam History” campaign.
Brown concluded his speech with these stirring words to an audience of delegates from well over 100 nations: “Your nation should end amalgam use for children, because the children of your nation are equally vital to the children of Europe.” The worldwide campaign to end amalgam for children — as a springboard to ending its use entirely — continues.
American Association of Dental Boards Operates Within ADA
The American Dental Association (ADA) is among those who have long defended the use of mercury fillings. Not coincidently, they also hold two amalgam patents.11
The ADA Foundation, which “provides grants, scholarships, awards, and facilitated in-kind product donations to programs that are in alignment with the organization’s efforts to advance oral health, expand access to dental care, and drive game-changing research,” is located in Chicago12 — in the same building as the American Association of Dental Boards.13
The American Association of Dental Boards is a national association that heads up the individual state dental boards. Its mission is to “serve as a resource by providing a national forum for exchange, development and dissemination of information to help dental regulatory boards with their obligation to protect the public.”14 What’s more, the American Association of Dental Boards states:15
“Membership is comprised of boards of dentistry, specialty boards (recognized by the American Dental Association), present and past members of those boards, board administrators, board attorneys, and dental and dental hygiene educators.”
But the American Association of Dental Boards, whose role is to protect the public and regulate dentistry, is housed inside the offices of the American Dental Association; they even operate together on the same telephone lines. What a massive conflict of interest! Brown also brought this conflict of interest to the attention of the FTC.
It clarifies a lot of why dental boards have been so cozy with the ADA, helping protect the mercury secret and keep it from American parents and consumers. The continued use of mercury in dental fillings, and the lack of transparency in disclosing the toxic truth about amalgam’s contents to consumers, is just another outcome of this conflicted relationship.
Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project stated in a news release, “Consumers must be told that amalgam is mainly mercury, but also that there are nonmercury alternatives available that work just as well or better.”16
Mercury-Free Alternatives Are Readily Available
One of the most well loved alternatives to amalgam is resin composite, which is made of a type of plastic reinforced with powdered glass. It’s already common throughout the U.S. and the rest of the developed world, offering notable improvements over amalgam, as, according to Consumers for Dental Choice, it:17
• Is environmentally safe — Composite, which contains no mercury, does not pollute the environment. This saves taxpayers from paying the costs of cleaning up dental mercury pollution in our water, air and land — and the costs of health problems associated with mercury pollution.
• Preserves healthy tooth structure, because, unlike amalgam, it does not require the removal of significant amounts of healthy tooth matter. Over the long term, composite preserves healthy tooth structure and really strengthens teeth, leading to better oral health and less extensive dental work over the long term.
• Is long-lasting — While some claim that amalgam fillings last longer than composite fillings, the science reveals this claim to be baseless. The latest studies show that composite not only lasts as long as amalgam, but really has a higher overall survival rate.
Unfortunately, many private dental insurance companies do not cover mercury-free fillings for all teeth, so be sure to read the fine print if you’re considering a new plot.
Choose a Mercury-Free Dentist
If your current dentist is still using mercury in his or her practice — even if they also offer mercury-free options — seek out a dentist that offers only mercury-free fillings for all patients. And, be sure to inform your dentist about the reason you’re transferring. One place to look is on the website of Consumers for Dental Choice: www.toxicteeth.org: (scroll down the home page, and click “Find a mercury-free dentist”
For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend seeking advice from a qualified health professional about whether to have them removed. If the answer is yes, then go ONLY to a competent biological dentist who follows professional protocols for amalgam removal. Do not, but, remove fillings while pregnant, as this will expose you to increased mercury vapors.