Lead in Dental Products Continues to Worry Dentists

What’s Going on with the Lead Scare?

When last we spoke of the lead scandal, an Ohio TV station had reported finding the toxic metal in two dental crowns manufactured in Chinese dental labs. They launched their investigation after an elderly woman allegedly suffered lead poisoning from her dental bridge.

In two months since the story broke, a number of different organizations have begun their own testing of dental prosthetics. Unfortunately for those of us hungry for more data, few results have been publicly released.

However, the data that has come in so far suggests the lead scandal may be even bigger than we thought. Preliminary numbers suggest that a surprisingly high number of dental prostheses contain lead.

What’s more, the tainted dental work isn’t just coming from China. Lead has apparently been found in restorations made in the US as well as other countries.

Expanding upon their initial investigation, Ohio’s Channel 10 has released the results of further tests. What they found was not encouraging.

  • China: 5 of 7 crowns tested contained 160-240 ppm lead.
  • Thailand: 2 of 2 crowns tested at 130-140 ppm lead.
  • USA: 2 of 4 crowns tested contained 110-130 ppm lead.

Since none of the components of a dental crown should contain lead, the million-dollar question (the one no one can answer right now) is where the lead is coming from. Is the lead in the glaze, the porcelain, or the metal? Are the dental labs responsible, or does the fault lie with those who manufacture the components?

Who’s doing what?

  • The FDA is monitoring the situation, but is not currently planning to issue a Consumer Update.
  • The CDC says it’s the FDA’s job, but suggests that even lead levels of 200 ppm are not dangerous.
  • The ADA is conducting its own tests. Results have not been publicly released.

Read the report from 10 Investigates, or post your own comments on lead in dental products…

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  • Lee Wight

    All this sweat about lead. WHAT ABOUT CHEWING ON 50% MERCURY?!! Far more toxic than lead.

  • I would look at the labs and the manufactures supply chain for, “Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMP). In the USA GMP mandates that anything medical or dental be made on/in a dedicated facility or production line. That avoids contamination that could occur on switching production runs. Example: Acme Metals casts ingots for XYZ Dental Supply, and, casts lead sinkers for ABC Fishing Supply. O.K. but not on the same line or perhaps even at the same location. In the USA I would check the recyclers. Some labs remelt scrap. Some lab techs make jewelry in their lab, …and God knows what else from what metal.

    The Chinese are notorious for farming out contracts to small job shops. If those smaller shops – often in a household – don’t adhere to GMP, they might run jobs from XYZ Dental and ABC Fishing Supply in the same furnance and crucible. You will have contamination.

    Mission Control, we have a problem.

    Bob Guzauskas, DDS
    Mid-County Dental Center, Inc
    and, The Laboratory @ MCDC
    West Palm Beach, FL


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