Will the FDA ban amalgam? Tooth whitening risky at the mall

Dear DrBicuspid Member,

The big news this week is the shifting sands at the FDA regarding the agency's stance on dental amalgam. After settling a lawsuit with consumer groups that sought to have mercury fillings banned from the U.S. market, the FDA revised language on its Web site regarding risk factors associated with mercury fillings in certain patient populations, and is now considering changing the regulatory status of amalgam, which could lead to new restrictions on its use.

But how strong a stand will the FDA actually take? Is dental amalgam really at risk of being banned or its use limited? The ADA portrays the FDA's "new" position on amalgam as a bureaucratic reshuffling that might not matter at all to dentists, while amalgam opponents describe it as the "beginning of the end." Senior Editor Laird Harrison presents both sides of the story here.

In other consumer-related news, a symposium at the American Diabetes Association gave dentists a chance to educate diabetes experts on the critical relationship between periodontal disease and type 2 diabetes. Research shows not only that dental disease is an indicator of diabetes but that diabetics with periodontitis have a harder time controlling blood sugar levels. Find out what you can do to help.

Another consumer trend that could affect your practice is taking place at the mall, of all places. Teeth-whitening centers run by nondentists are springing up at shopping malls across the country, and safety concerns have state officials up in arms. The price might be cheaper, but at what cost to your patients? Read more.

Back in the office, for years dentists haven't been able to do much about the discomforts of inferior alveolar nerve blocks (IANBs) in patients needing mandibular procedures. But recent research suggests an infiltration will suffice for most restorations. When is it OK to forego IANB? Find out here.

Be sure also to check out part II of "Perfect panoramics" and learn the three key steps to reliable, high-quality panoramic x-rays. This Imaging Community article also features a slide show that demonstrates firsthand the dos and don'ts of patient positioning.

Finally, don't forget to log onto the Forums -- there are lots of new topics this week, and plenty of opinions to go around!

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