Mercury dental amalgam has been used for over 150 years to treat tooth decay or dental caries. But the campaign to phase it out has been hotting up, first from the World Dental Federation. Nigerian Dental Association became the 88th country that signed the treaty in 2013 as concerns were raised about the major ingredient.
Dental amalgam is a mixture of metals, consisting of liquid [elemental] mercury and a powdered alloy composed of silver, tin and copper. Approximately 50% of dental amalgam is elemental mercury by weight.
The Minamata Convention limits mercury mining, regulates trade, reduces the use of mercury in products and process. NDA convened its 52nd scientific conference to reflect the shifts that dentistry is presently undergoing—”a revolution in the way they manage tooth decay which is the most common oral disease and is still the major reason why people go to the dentist,” said the association’s president, Dr Eshikena Evelyn.
The worldwide ban on mercury dental amalgam is slowly creeping up. It is commonly used in general dental practice in developing countries worldwide—and the material most frequently used for widespread dental students training. While the FDI fully supports the phase down of mercury amalgam, it has asked that countries and dentists be given access to safe, effective and affordable alternatives. She added that following the example of the European Union in 2018 Nigeria revealed its plan to end the use of dental amalgam in children younger than l6 years, pregnant and breastfeeding women by year 2020 and even gone a step further pledging to complete a phase down of dental amalgam by year 2022.
The Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Mashi announced at the conference that Nigeria would respect the treaty it signed and implement the phase down of mercury dental amalgam. For dentistry it is a phase down, while for others it is a phase out, he said. Represented by the head, Dentistry Division in the Ministry, Dr Bola Alonge, the permanent secretary said, as part of the proactive measure since last year, the ministry was already developing documents and implementation plans on this issue in Nigeria. “We are currently working on the policy at the ministry.”