Dentists are to phase down the use of silver fillings from next month.
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) says dental amalgam contains several metals including mercury.
From July 1, this type of filling will no longer be used in baby teeth for children under 15 or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
The President of the IDA Dr Kieran O’Connor said the new regulations are being brought in primarily for environmental reasons with the aim of reducing the amount of mercury in the environment.
“Placing or removing amalgam fillings can cause mercury waste to be released into the environment and that is why its use is being phased down. However, it will continue to be a treatment option for all other patients for the time being” he said.
Dr Eamon Croke, who helped to produce the IDA’s patient information leaflet on this issue, said dental amalgam fillings are safe, strong and long-lasting.
“Many people who have amalgam fillings may be wondering about their safety. Many will have had these fillings for a long time and they will be working very well. Their removal is to be avoided because it usually leads to the creation of a larger cavity,” he said.
The IDA also said that while 80% of Irish adults are entitled to a free dental examination each year under the PRSI or medical card scheme, many people do not avail of that or a one-off contribution which the PRSI scheme pays towards cleaning.
Dr O’Connor said the IDA is particularly concerned at the low numbers of medical card patients which avail of the free examination.
“There are 1.3 million medical card patients in the country but figures for 2017 show that only 410,000 people availed of the service which is less than a third," he said.
"This is a real indictment of the current scheme which is twenty-four years old and further evidence that the public has lost confidence in it."
- Digital Desk