Dentists are among the many occupations at-risk for asbestos exposure. Just as asbestos was incorporated into many products and materials throughout countless industries, the toxic mineral was also used in some dental products and materials between the 1930s and 1970s.
Today there are regulations in place to prevent the use of asbestos and exposure to it, but some former dental professionals are developing asbestos-related diseases. The asbestos-containing dental materials causing these diseases are reportedly dental tape and periodontal dressing. Although these materials were used in rare cases, there is still a risk associated with the material and their ingredients.
Asbestos Products in Dental Work
Few dental products historically contained asbestos, but it is still a health hazard. No amount of asbestos is considered safe. Dental lining tape was found to contain traces of asbestos. More recently, it was discovered that chrysotile asbestos was used to manufacture casting rings and periodontal dressings. Because of this discovery, dentists are considered at-risk for occupational asbestos exposure.
Even though it has been decades since asbestos was used in these products, past and present dental professionals are still developing respiratory issues and sometimes pleural mesothelioma. There is a long latency period, usually several decades, between asbestos exposure and the illnesses that follow.
Most cases of mesothelioma are caused by a recognizable source of asbestos exposure. According to an article from American Journal of Industrial Medicine, dental tape may be a source of asbestos exposure for dental professionals. Dental tape was not a common product, however, it contained asbestos from the 1930s through the 1970s. It was often used in the crafting of casting rings.
Casting rings were used to make a number of materials used in dental treatment, such as dental inlays, crown (caps), bridges, and removable dentures.
Dental inlays were used in place of fillings to replace a small amount of tooth structure loss as a result of decay. Inlays fit inside the tooth and were made of gold.
Crowns, or caps, were used to “cap” a tooth to restore the normal function and appearance of the tooth. Crowns are used for teeth with very large fillings, teeth that have already had a root canal, fractured or worn teeth due to grinding of the teeth, misshapen teeth, or discolored teeth.
Bridges replace a missing tooth or teeth. Teeth on both sides of the missing tooth, or teeth, are prepared for a crown, or cap, then a fake tooth is joined to the crowns; this is called the bridge. Once everything is prepared, the entire bridge is cemented to the surrounding teeth.
Removable dentures replace missing teeth and can improve a patient’s smile, bite, facial appearance, speech problems and chewing.
An article written for the British Dental Journal points out that many students worked with asbestos products in dental school: “According to the 1991 report it was common practice for undergraduates at dental schools to cast a minimum of 40 sets of dentures, and those using this asbestos fiber-based roll are likely to have been exposed.”
Periodontal dressings were used postoperatively following periodontal surgery. The dressing protected the surgical site from infection and harm caused by chewing.
Researchers discovered asbestos was a main ingredient in periodontal dressing powders. When dental professionals mixed the powder with a liquid to form a putty mix, they were innocently exposed to asbestos dust.
Jury Awards $16.25 Million to a Dental Technician
The first asbestos lawsuit for dental tape exposure took place in 2008. Marvin Penn, a dental technician, was awarded $16.25 million after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Marvin’s main profession was being a mail carrier. However in the late 1960s, he decided to attend dental technician school. Little did he know he was exposed to asbestos while using dental tape to make castings by carving wax replicas of teeth.
Most mesothelioma lawsuits don’t go to trial, but in special cases they do. Marvin was involved in a three-week trial involving top medical experts. Around 40% of his exposures were attributed to his use of dental tape. The two dental supply manufacturers found liable were Kerr Corp. and Randsom & Randolf, which is now Dentsply Corp.
Since 2008, there have been six other cases of dentists diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma resulting in an asbestos lawsuit
If you have been exposed to these dental products and would like more information, do not hesitate to contact Registered Nurse Karen Ritter. She can help answer any asbestos-related health questions or concerns.
Sources & Author
An investigation into asbestos related disease in the dental industry. British Dental Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v206/n10/full/sj.bdj.2009.413.html. Accessed: 3/13/17.
Periodontal Dressing. Journal of Integrated Dentistry. Retrieved from: http://www.jident.com/archives/39/8.pdf. Accessed: 3/13/17.
Potential airborne asbestos exposures in dentistry: a comprehensive review and risk assessment. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34060417/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Malignant mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in dental tape. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28244608/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Prevention of Occupational Hazards Due to Asbestos Exposure in Dentistry. A Proposal from a Panel of Experts. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8955252/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Inlays and Onlays. American College of Prosthodontists. Retrieved from: https://www.gotoapro.org/inlays-onlays/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Caps and Crowns. American College of Prosthodontists. Retrieved from: https://www.gotoapro.org/caps-and-crowns/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Bridges. American College of Prosthodontists. Retrieved from: https://www.gotoapro.org/bridges/. Accessed: 09/08/22.
Periodontal Dressing. American Academy of Periodontology. Retrieved from: https://members.perio.org/libraries/glossary/entry?GlossaryKey=e7f1cbfa-acca-4bc0-bb6f-a3ff9d6cb878&tab=groupdetails. Accessed: 09/08/22.
- Malignant mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in dental tape. PubMed. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28244608. Accessed: 3/13/17.
- An investigation into asbestos related disease in the dental industry. British Dental Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v206/n10/full/sj.bdj.2009.413.html. Accessed: 3/13/17.
- Periodontal Dressing. Journal of Integrated Dentistry. Retrieved from: http://www.jident.com/archives/39/8.pdf. Accessed: 3/13/17.
Sources & Author