China? India? Mexico? Do you know where YOUR dental work was made? With the globalization of the manufacturing industry, outsourcing of dental restorations (crowns, bridges, implants, etc.) has increasingly become the norm.
Limited outsourcing began in the ‘80s, but demand (driven by cheap materials and even cheaper labor) has pushed more and more business offshore.
Many dentists, hoping to increase their profit margins, are now dealing directly with foreign laboratories. Others are sending the prescription for your dental work to cut-rate US dental labs where it may be manufactured using inferior foreign materials, or even sent in its entirety to a foreign lab for fabrication. Unfortunately, due to inadequate labeling requirements, you may be left completely in the dark regarding the origin, safety, and quality of the crown that’s in your mouth… until something goes wrong.
“Labeling requirements are anything but crystal clear,” says Dr. Gordon Isbell, III of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. “Since every treating dentist has a responsibility for every aspect of the care their patients receive, it’s imperative that the dentist knows that the quality and materials are exactly what was expected. That means knowing both who will make a device as well as where it will be made.”*
With some 5 to 10 million restorations being manufactured offshore, there is no surprise that concern for the quality and craftsmanship of this work is steadily growing. Following a recent lead scare, the American Association of Dental Laboratories was prompted to launch a consumer information website (www.whatsinyourmouth.us) to address the alarm. Even the American Dental Association has weighed in on the debate, soliciting the input of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) and the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) in assessing any potential health threat. Trace amounts of lead were indeed detected. While the CDC determined at the time that there was no clear threat to patients, ADA President Mark Feldman, DMD, stated, “We are still conducting our own test of dental prostheses and will take the CDC up on its offer to evaluate the results.”**
Don’t second guess your health—as a patient, you have a right to know exactly what’s in your mouth and where it came from. Don’t be shy to ask your dental provider the following questions:
• Do you use a Certified Dental Technician for your laboratory work?
• Is the laboratory you work with certified?
• What materials are in the restorations you are prescribing for my treatment plan?
• Where is your dental laboratory located? Is it on premises?
*Source: ADA News Today, May 19, 2006.
**Source: ADA press release, April 29, 2008.