A Dental Health Expert, Prof. Godwin Arotiba, says there are ongoing efforts by dental health practitioners to phase out mercury in dental amalgam, a tooth decay filling material in Nigeria.
Mr Arotiba, the Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Dental Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Akoka, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Lagos.
Mr Arotiba is also the Coordinator, Mercury-Free Dentistry in Nigeria, a project by the Nigerian Dental Association to phase out mercury in dental amalgam.
According to him, dental amalgam contains about 50 per cent mercury, which is used to mix other metals that makes up the materials used to fill the cavity.
“Mercury is toxic to humans, particularly unborn babies; pregnant and lactating women; children under one year to six years old; and adolescents from six years to 19 years old.
“It is also toxic to all the neurological system, especially the brain; so, it damages children’s brains even before they are born.
“The Minamata Convention on Mercury by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation seek to restrict or ban outrightly the use of mercury in all products including medical equipment and most importantly, dental amalgam.
“Nigeria signed the convention and is bound by the agreement to phase out the use of mercury in all products,’’ Mr Arotiba said.
The professor said that dentists in the country were planning a conference on July 24 to map out strategies to phase out the use of mercury dental amalgam.
He said that one of the strategies would be restricting its use by vulnerable groups including children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women.
“We also want to update the dental school curriculum such that future generations of dentists in Nigeria are trained in mercury-free dentistry.
“Then, we want to upgrade the simulation laboratories of all dental schools with complete Information and Communications Technology, ICT, and e-learning facilities so that the students can learn better.
“These facilities can be used to retrain general dental practitioners in mercury-free dentistry,’’ he said.
Mr Arotiba said that the current trend in the management of tooth decay was called minimum intervention dentistry, which is mercury-free.
According to him, new materials are used and are bio-active to prevent secondary tooth decay.
The don urged the Federal Government to immediately ban the use of mercury dental amalgam by the vulnerable groups and its importation into the country.
“The government should also make the materials that will replace the amalgam to be custom duty-free or do a reduction for it, so that dentists will not be forced to use amalgam.
“Then we can arrange a system where we collect all the amalgam and look at how we can dispose of the mercury.
“We also want to create a lot of public enlightenment about the problem. For example, if you go to a dentist and he wants to put amalgam, you have the right to refuse,” Arotiba said.