Nanotechnology in Dentistry Could Save Us… Or Could Kill Us

Nanotechnology in DentistryWe’ve been talking recently about silver nanoparticles and if nanosilver will be the new amalgam. This week, we’ll try to piece together some of the scientific evidence about nanotechnology.

Nanomaterials have been defined by the EPA as “particles that have been intentionally produced to have at least one dimension that measures between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers.” That’s pretty tiny, given that there are one billion nanometers in one meter.

Why Newly-Discovered Ingredients Do Not Always Belong in Toothpaste

People tend to get enthusiastic about new technologies, but sometimes being an early adopter isn’t a good idea.

Case in point: Doramad toothpaste, manufactured in Germany between 1940-45. The toothpaste contained radioactive thorium.
Doramad radioactive toothpaste
“Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums,” read the package. “The cells are loaded with new life energy, the bacteria are hindered in their destroying effect. This explains the excellent prophylaxis and healing process with gingival diseases.” (source)

Doramad is not the only radioactive toothpaste to have been manufactured, but the story behind this World War II toothpaste is particularly interesting, involving resourceful German scientists looking for other applications for their atomic research.

The Safety of Nanomaterials

Nanoparticles behave quite differently from their regular-sized counterparts. Their comparatively large surface area increases their biological activity. Moreover, the particles themselves are much smaller than cells. Nanoparticles can be absorbed through the skin, eyes or nose. They can even cross the blood-brain barrier.

For example, although titanium dioxide is biologically inert, nano-titanium dioxide particles have been shown to damage DNA. Nano-titanium dioxide is estimated to be in over 10,000 consumer products today, including cosmetics, medicines and toothpaste.

Another major nanotech invention, carbon nanotubes have amazing strength. Unfortunately, they can also cause more lung damage than asbestos.

Nanomaterials are also ending up in our food. A thin nano coating can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Nano ingredients can make cake mixes pour more easily. Food scientists say that nanomaterials can enhance flavor, preserve freshness, or even protect the safety of our food supply.

But foods containing nano ingredients aren’t labeled as such, and the FDA isn’t regulating them.

A number of studies have indicated possible negative health effects from nanomaterials, but the scientific evidence is not yet clear. The FDA, for its part, is concerned about things that have been proven to be dangerous, but is more lax when it comes to things that have not yet proven either safe or dangerous.

Nano-Gold Face Cream

It’s not even clear if nano-gold has useful properties, but that hasn’t stopped the marketing folks from cashing in on it.

For the bargain price of only $420, you can get half an ounce of Chantecaille Nano Gold Energizing Cream.
Doramad radioactive toothpaste

This face cream costs only slightly less than actual gold.

Buy it: Barneys New York

Regulating Nano Products

When it comes to consumer products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA are in charge. And while the EPA is not quite as laissez-faire as the FDA, their stance on nanotechnology isn’t clear either.

In 2008, the EPA fined a California company a whopping $200,000 for selling keyboards and mouses with a nanosilver coating. According to the EPA, these products should have been registered under federal pesticide law. Notably, the EPA has not issued any such fines since then. (Read more: Science Daily)

What’s the Deal with Nanosilver?

Silver is a known environmental hazard. (In fact, environmental problems were observed when silver was commonly used to develop photos.) Only mercury can be more toxic to aquatic life. And nanosilver is more biologically active than normal silver.

And now we have unregulated nanosilver in hundreds of consumer products, including toothpaste.

Read more from AOL: The Nanotech Gamble

What are your thoughts?

I’m curious as to what you all think about this. Will nanotech and nanosilver be the next dental amalgam?

Dentist Amalgam Separators To Be Required by EPA

EPA to require dental amalgam separators for every dentistDentists, take note! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to require every US dentist have an amalgam separator.

The proposed rule would likely take effect by 2014. Twelve US states already require separators.

In their announcement, the EPA stated that 3.7 tons of mercury are discharged each year by US dental practices. A 2003 study funded by the ADA found that dental mercury is the source of about 50% of the mercury encountered by water treatment plants.

Expect this to be a topic of discussion at the ADA annual meeting later this month.

Read more: US EPA to regulate dental mercury waste

Dental Water Line Cleaner Violates Pesticide Laws

A dental supply company has agreed to pay the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over $300,000 for pesticide violations.

Oregon-based A-dec has been selling dental water cleaner tablets called ICX since 2006. But though A-dec had applied to register the cleaner in 2006, the waterline cleaner had not been approved by the EPA.

So in late 2008, the EPA stopped sales of the product. The company was accused of over 100 violations of the “Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.”

Within a month, the company had properly registered the water cleaner and was legally selling it again. A-dec insists they thought they had received EPA approval. The product had been already been fully tested and approved by the FDA.

Read more about A-dec’s troubles…


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