Following today’s decision by the European Parliament to prohibit the use of dental amalgam from January 1, 2025, concerns have been raised within the dental profession regarding the potential impact on dental services in the UK.
Silver amalgam is the primary material used for permanent fillings within the NHS across the UK. Fillings account for approximately a quarter of all NHS treatments provided in England, with amalgam being utilised in about one-third of these procedures, as the British Dental Association (BDA) reported.
The recent adoption of a proposal by the European Commission to revise the Mercury Regulation on July 14 included plans for a complete phase-out of dental amalgam usage, along with prohibiting its manufacture and export from the EU effective January 1, 2025—five years earlier than initially anticipated.
Disruption and higher costs
The BDA has expressed concerns about the potential disruptions and increased costs that this decision may bring, particularly for Northern Ireland, which has the highest proportion of filled teeth among all UK nations. Given the post-Brexit arrangements, Northern Ireland must align its phase-out of dental amalgam with EU member states, causing divergence and potential challenges for the rest of the UK regarding supply chain impacts, albeit without a formal ban.
In response, the BDA is urging the chief dental officers across the UK to collaborate with the profession and industry to urgently address the direct implications of the EU regulation on Northern Ireland, prioritise preventive measures to reduce the need for dental restorations, secure a consistent supply of alternative materials, and ensure that the transition does not financially burden dentists.
While the BDA acknowledges the need for a gradual reduction in dental amalgam usage, it argues that the rapid phase-out proposed by the EU needs to be revised and justified.
Eddie Crouch, Chair of the BDA, stated: ‘As we face the prospect of losing a crucial tool in combating tooth decay, it is concerning that all four UK governments appear to be inactive on this issue. With alternative materials unable to match the efficacy of amalgam, this decision could introduce new challenges and costs to dental practices already under strain. Without decisive action, this may further exacerbate the pressures faced by NHS dentistry.’