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FDA Panel Calls for Safety Review of Mercury in Dental Fillings
Date:12/16/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers urged the agency to take a new look at data that may indicate potential safety problems with dental fillings that include mercury.

The FDA had ruled in 2009 that mercury used in so-called amalgam dental fillings is safe.

"We need to see where the science is and if there are gaps," said the panel's chairwoman, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, a dentist and researcher with the University of Pennsylvania, CNN reported.

The advisory panel noted that the FDA's 2009 decision was solid, based on scientific findings available at the time. The panel also stressed that more studies need to be done on the fillings, especially in children, CNN said.

The FDA advisory panel met in response to challenges from consumer and dental groups that contended the FDA relied on flawed data when it set the guidelines for mercury safety levels. Critics of fillings that use mercury as a component contend that they can pose neurotoxic health risks, especially to fetuses and young children.

In July 2009, the FDA placed tighter safety controls on the use of mercury dental fillings, but said they were safe for most people.

Since that time, the agency has categorized the fillings as Class II devices, which puts them into the middle range of risk. Class II devices usually carry some kind of precautions regarding their use.

But FDA officials said at the time of the 2009 vote that the fillings pose no real harm to most people.

"Patients are not at risk for long-term, mercury-related adverse health events," Dr. Susan Runner, of the FDA's Division of Anesthesiology, General Hospital, Infection Control and Dental Devices, said during a July 28, 2009, news conference. "There have only been 141 adverse event reports over 20 years. None resulted in death."

The FDA did recommend in 2009 the followi
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