DELRAY BEACH, FL –Dr. Craig Spodak is concerned about an increasing number of dental implants, bridges, and crowns that are being manufactured overseas in countries like China and India for about one-sixth the cost. “This is very dangerous in my opinion and we don’t have any idea of the ramifications and we won’t for many years from now,” he says.
But with less guarantee of regulation, he says in rare cases the imported products have shown dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. And the long-term effects are still unknown. Yet many patients in the U.S. have no idea their dental work is being made elsewhere.
Jilan Plednik, one of Dr. Spodak’s patients, says that doesn’t seem right. “I believe it’s your right to know 100% of what’s going on, especially if it’s going to be in your body,” she says.
Dentist: Beware imported dental implants
Dr. Spodak’s Delray Beach office is one of the few left in the country, he says, where customized lab-work is still being done on the premises. That, he says, gives him control over the materials being used.
But as many as 20% of dental implants are now manufactured outside the U.S. according to the American Dental Association.
The US Food and Drug Administration and the ADA are both investigating reports that materials used by some of those foreign manufacturers may contain high levels of lead and other dangerous metals.
“A lot of these crowns have nickel and beryllium, two caustic, potentially cancer-causing metals,” says Spodak. “And they’re being placed in crowns. And these crowns are going two inches from your brain, basically. In your head. So, it’s a scary proposition.”
Faye Lewis of Ohio is the patient whose case launched the investigation process in 2008. Shortly after receiving a dental bridge she got sick. Tests later revealed the product, a dental bridge, was made in China.
“The results were terrifying,” says Lewis in an impassioned plea posted on YouTube. “They showed elevated levels of three toxic chemicals…cadmium, arsenic and lead.”
Lewis urged lawmakers to take action, and in January 2009 Florida enacted a law requiring dental laboratories to tell dentists where a product is manufactured and what materials are used. But the law stopped short of requiring that information be passed along to patients.
It’s still up to the patient, therefore, to ask his or her dentist to disclose that information, and Spodak believes more patients must be informed they have that right. Ask them, he urges, “What lab you’re using and where it’s located.”
The FDA says it does not believe imported crowns pose a significant public health risk. Also, the Florida Dental Association says it’s not aware of any incidents in our state.
The head of the American Dental Association says he’s actually worried that the growing number of reports on the topic may cause some patients to skip treatment that they really need.
The best advice, most agree, is to speak with your dentist, and if you have concerns, ask where your dental work is being manufactured.