I’ll take the dental crown without formaldehyde please

OK. I will admit it. I chose this provocative title to get your attention.

formaldehyde is a toxic chemical and carcinogen

Formaldehyde has not been found in dental crowns but many other toxic chemicals have.

Nearly everyone has heard the news surrounding Lumber Liquidators and the flooring containing elevated levels of the chemical formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, was found in flooring manufactured in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators.

Understandably, people do not want to live in a home where there might be elevated levels of formaldehyde. But did you know that tens of thousands of Americans are walking around with crowns and dentures in their mouth that were made in China with possible toxic chemicals?

Toxic Chemicals in Dental Crowns from China

Let’s look at incidents from across the world where toxic chemicals were detected in dental crowns and bridges from China and other Asian countries:

dental crown that contains no lead

Does this crown have lead or cadmium?

  • In Ohio, a woman’s dental bridge that came from a lab in China was tested and found to contain high levels of lead. Additional crowns were then ordered from Chinese labs and some were found to contain lead at a concentration of 490 ppm – nearly five times above the 100 ppm for children’s toys set by the CPSC. Based on this article, the dentistry was performed by Aspen Dental.
  • In this news report out of Australia, they found lead, cadmium and beryllium in many all-ceramic cosmetic dental crowns originating from several Asian countries.
  • This report from the UK talks about the surge of Chinese crowns being brought into Britain and the lack of oversight over the materials used.

This is not just restricted to wood flooring and dental crowns. Remember the lead paint made in China that was used on Mattel toys?

In the United States, the FDA has the authority to inspect and investigate any dental lab. And there are strict laws governing the contents of dental materials. Do you think China has similar safeguards?

You Get What You Pay For

As a dentist in Connecticut, I only use United States based dental labs, and I know my lab fees. From the advertisements I receive from Chinese labs, I could get prosthetics at one fifth the price. So that means if I have to pay a Connecticut based lab $250 for a crown, I could probably have it done in China for around $50 or even less.

dental bridge made in Connecticut

This bridge was made by a Connecticut lab for a patient from Milford, CT

At my office, we will periodically get phone calls from patients asking about our fees for crowns. Since we only do high quality dentistry, our fees are higher than many other offices. How do you think dental offices are able to offer $400 crowns? You guessed it – they’re most likely made in China. In fact, if you believe this post, one large corporate dental chain uses labs in China for their crowns. The use of Chinese labs by this corporate chain owned by a Wall Street Private Equity Form was also noted in this article.

So, if you shop around thinking “all crowns are the same” you will likely end up with an inferior or substandard crown. Remember this famous saying: the bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.

Your Rights as Dental Patients

made in the USA slogan for dental crowns

My office, as well as many other dentists, will only use USA based dental labs.

In the wake of these findings, legislation was introduced in several states regarding dental materials. Laws can and will change. In general:

  • You have the right to ask your dentist where your crown and/or denture was fabricated.
  • You have the right to ask your dentist about the materials used in any dental prosthesis.

In general, if your dental office doesn’t want to give you this information, you should be suspect. As a dentist in private practice, I welcome inquiries from my patients, since I only use dental labs based in my home state.

And lastly, there are no known cases of crowns containing formaldehyde. I only included this given the news surrounding Lumber Liquidators and the Chinese laminate flooring.

Legal disclaimer: the information presented in this article about two large corporations was derived from news reports. Those sources are referenced and linked to. This blog post does not purport to verify the accuracy of those news stories. As always, conduct your own research prior to making conclusions and deciding from whom to receive dental care.

Comments

  1. Stephen Rowe, DMD. says:

    Thank you, Dr. Calcaterra, great article. Will use this as a reference w/ some of my “shoppers”. Question: any info concerning this subject from crowns and metallic partial frameworks coming out of Mexico?? I know alot of dentists use labs just across the Border.

    • I have not come across anything concrete regarding products from Mexico or Central American countries. Perhaps it’s because they use quality materials? Or that a bad outcome has not yet made the mainstream press? Hard to tell. But I am certain the use of non-U.S. labs will only continue to increase.

  2. Great post here. It’s incredibly disturbing knowing that something made to be in a patient’s mouth could contain such dangerous chemicals! Hopefully we’ll be looking at products coming in from China with a little more scrutiny right now before someone gets hurt.

  3. Cal Driver says:

    Great to know that this is an issue. I’m scared enough of the dentist without having to worry about formaldehyde in my mouth. While I trust my local dental practitioner, I’ll definitely have to ask him where the crowns came from. I’ll be hoping he doesn’t say China, as I already have a crown from him! Thanks for raising the alarm about this potentially dangerous issue!

  4. Linda Covert says:

    I just found this blog. I spent 13 thousand dollars on partials made in Idaho. I wore them for 1 year and slowly became very ill. I went to my neurologist and he said that I was cyanotic. I was tested for heavy metal poisoning. I was lacking oxygen to my brain, so I had my partials tested at a lab. My teeth were 16 percent cadmium !!!!

    An XRF spectrometer does not lie. Of course, the lab did. I’m slowly detoxing. Do you realize that labs do NOT have to be licensed in most states. I’m very distraught.
    Finding an attorney is just as difficult. Thank You for letting me Speak My Mind!

  5. JUST AN FYI, MANY US BASED DENTAL LABORATORIES ALSO SUBCONTRACT THEIR WORK OUT TO CHINA ETC. YOU MUST ASK YOUR DENTIST TO GET A GUARANTEE FROM THE LAB THEY ARE USING THAT IT IS INDEED MADE HERE IN US. MANY DENTISTS THEMSELVES HAVE NO IDEA THAT YOUR CROWN IS BEING MADE OVERSEAS!!!

    • That is likely an accurate statement. However, generally speaking, crowns fabricated in the U.S. are much more expensive. So if I call a lab (as a dentist) and they tell me each crown is $50, I know it is not being made domestically. A dentist should have a pretty good idea where the crown is being fabricated.

  6. That is assuming the laboratory is adjusting their prices to reflect the fact they are sending overseas. However, what dentists are not understanding is that most laboratories are NOT adjusting their prices for that very reason. I personally know of a large PREMIER laboratory based in California that DOES send overseas and DOES NOT adjust their prices so the dentists do not question where the crown is coming from. Unless dentists start requesting legislation to be passed, requiring the laboratories to disclose the POINT OF ORIGIN of the crown you will never know. FACT.

    • I cannot dispute your anecdotes about a large California lab. If you say that’s the case then I’ll have to believe you.

      You are welcome to state there is no legislation requiring the point of origin to be disclosed.

      What your posts, which seem very aggressive, are failing to take into account is one factor: QUALITY

      I see lots of crappy dentistry peddled by the big Corporate Dental Chains. I can spot their crowns a mile away. Open margins, poor contours, chipping porcelain, horrible shades, low quality alloys, etc. Are these crowns fabricated in China? I don’t know. But I do know that these are extremely low quality crowns that I would never put in my mouth nor a patient’s mouth.

      If a dentist can’t spot the difference between a $40 crown and a $200 crown, then I would put forth that he/she needs to re-take fixed prosthodontics at their local dental school.

      So if a lab tried to sell a $40 crown that was priced at $200, all the dentists I know could spot it immediately. FACT.

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