French dentists cutting down on mercury fillings

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French dentists are steering clear of mercury fillings and opting for tooth-coloured ceramic restorations.

Mercury fillings are not banned in France. However, dentists are using them less frequently, partly because patients prefer the appearance of white fillings and partly because there has been so much debate about the safety of mercury amalgam fillings.

Other European countries, including Sweden, Germany and Denmark, have banned mercury fillings and dentists across Europe are using them with decreasing frequency. Some people are calling for a complete ban on mercury fillings across the European Union. The European Commission is set to publish a review into the use of mercury fillings in March. The company that carried out the review, Bio Intelligence Service, has recommended that the use of mercury fillings should be gradually phased out across Europe.

Neurologist, Bernard Aranda, said that having metals in the mouth could increase the risk of certain illnesses, such as disseminated sclerosis. Aranda is in favour of a ban on mercury fillings and his stance is supported by Marie Grosman, scientific adviser for the Non au Mercure Dentaire organisation. She believes that mercury has obvious toxic effects and should be banned immediately.

Many dentists continue to use mercury fillings because they believe there is no risk of harmful side-effects; a report published in 2005 by the Healthcare Products Safety Agency concluded that mercury fillings were completely safe. Representatives from the French Dental Association urged patients to be cautious about having their fillings replaced; rushing to get fillings taken out can be counterproductive.

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