Lead Found In Dental Appliance

Finally! It’s been so long since we’ve posted about anything tainted with lead that we were starting to wonder if all the world’s trade problems had been resolved—but now comes a new study that found 210 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the porcelain veneer of a dental crown ordered from China. That’s a lot less than the CPSC’s current 600 ppm threshold, but a lot more than the international standard of only 90 ppm. The good news is it’s highly unlikely developing children will need a mouth full of crowns and bridges. The bad news is it’s yet another example of how hazardous material can slip undiscovered into the marketplace—and your mouth.

The Columbus Dispatch says that an estimated 7 million dental appliances in the U.S. come from foreign labs, and make up about one-fifth of the market. A Columbus television news station decided to test a few:

Working with a Columbus dentist, WBNS ordered eight supposedly identical dental crowns from four labs in China, the source of a growing number of dental implants used by U.S. dentists. The labs are regular advertisers in industry publications distributed in the United States.

A certified testing facility in Cleveland found that the porcelain veneer of one of the crowns contained lead — 210 parts per million.

In response, the ADA announced that it’s alerted the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that “it has begun its own ‘larger-scale investigation into the safety of both foreign and domestically produced dental crowns and other dental prostheses.'”

Until the results are available, the ADA says patients with concerns might want to ask their dentists these questions:

  • Do you make your own crowns, bridges, etc., or buy them from a dental laboratory?
  • Where is the lab located?
  • Does the lab outsource crowns or bridges to a foreign country?
  • If the lab is in a foreign country, does it provide written documentation that it is registered with the FDA?
  • Does the lab provide written documentation that it uses FDA-approved materials?
  • Have you noticed any problems with the crowns, bridges or other items produced by this lab?

We think the first three questions are good, and the last three questions are busywork from the ADA to make you feel like you’re doing something to protect yourself. If you’re really concerned about lead in foreign-made dental crowns, look for domestic or local labs.

Any dentists or dental lab techs lurking? Have you heard anything about this topic?

(Thanks to Cassandra!)

“Lead might be lurking in dental work” [Columbus Dispatch]
(Photo: greefus groinks)


Edit Your Comment

  1. All the better to chew those paint chips.

  2. uberbucket says:

    China, is there anything you can’t make out of lead?


  3. Beerad says:

    Yikes. Frankly, I’m too busy asking my dentist things like “Are you sure you don’t have a smaller needle?” and “Have I ever told you how grateful I am to be able to finance your boat payments?” to bust out “if the lab making my crown is in a foreign country, does it provide written documentation that it is registered with the FDA?”

    It follows my strict policy of don’t-annoy-the-man-who’s-drilling-in-your-mouth.

  4. riverstyxxx says:

    Outsourcing, anyone?

  5. theblackdog says:

    I don’t quite think the last question is busywork, maybe they’ve seen something that you might want to know about.

  6. nomegusto says:

    Even though the consumer shouldn’t have to do this, you should really ask the Dentist where the stuff going into your mouth was made, and if you can see the certificates of authenticity (all reputable labs will provide them, even ones that don’t produce products in the US like these.

    Hopefully state legislatures will pass some mandatory disclosure bills so we don’t have to feel guilty/embarrassed having to ask the dentist (or any medical professional) where these goods come from.

  7. k6richar says:

    The most important part of this is it was far below the current threshold and it was only found in one crown. I agree their should not be lead in our mouths but this article is just fear mongering.

  8. Rachacha says:

    One thing to point out with regards to the quoted lead limits, the 600ppm as compared with the international limit of 90ppm, you are comparing apples to oranges. The 600ppm limit is TOTAL lead content, where as the 90ppm limit applies only to lead that is accessible. More often than not the US standard is actually more stringent (a lot of the Mattel products that were recalled in the US for exceeding the lead limits, actually fully complied with the International requirements)

  9. janeEsmith says:

    “The good news is it’s highly unlikely developing children will need a mouth full of crowns and bridges.”

    We adopted a three year old girl from China last October. Her cleft palate had been repaired, but the social worker handed her over with instructions to take her to a dentist. She had six rotten teeth, five of which we had to have crowned once we arrived home. I’m glad now that we didn’t take her to the dentist in China.

  10. darkclawsofchaos says:

    I wonder what they can’t make out of lead? Pencils? (yes I know thats graphite in it, but then again, some pencils are painted)

  11. FangDoc says:

    This is one of the reasons why I use a domestic lab (like really domestic, as in it’s down the street from my office.) I have met the techs in person and I know where they got their training. And while I know that you can never be completely sure of the composition of every material they’re using, I believe I’m far less likely to get something that could harm my patients in the long run from this little local lab. I also pay 2 -3 times the lab fee that I would if I used an overseas lab.

    And before anyone asks, the fees I charge for a crown are competitive in my area. A dentist who uses an overseas lab probably isn’t passing the savings on to the patient; he or she is merely increasing their own profit margin.

  12. FangDoc says:

    @janeEsmith: Just dental nerd details here, but a 3-year-old wouldn’t get the kind of porcelain-veneered crown the OP is talking about. Primary teeth (which are all a 3-y-o has) get prefabricated stainless steel crowns because they’re going to be lost naturally in a few years anyway. Although I guess in China they might now be selling Super Fun Lead Crowns for Kids! (available at your local Dollar General.)

  13. omfpe says:

    Remember that story a few weeks ago about going to Mexico for your dental work? This issue might rarely happen here, but at least it’s illegal here and the government and regulatory bodies get up in arms about it when it happens.

    2nd – as FangDoc pointed out, most crowns placed on primary teeth are of the stainless steel variety rather than the gold alloy/porcelain variety.

  14. WelfareQueen says:

    Thank goodness that the major damages connected with lead poisoning have to do with killing nerves. So there is little discomfort as the number of brain cells is reduced-if fact there is progressive numbness. However Boomer’s, Millenial’s, Gen-Xer’s, and Gen-Yer’s enthusiastic use of recreational drugs is proof enough that do not consider brain damage an important consideration.
    So the great thing about lead-containing dental crowns is that not only do you get to save money on the crown but the more lead-contaminated crowns you have placed, the quicker you will qualify for full SSI benefits.