Retired LCDR Carl Jewett
VA-Accredited Claims Agent
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Important Facts About Asbestos Exposure for Dentists
- Dentists from the 20th century – up until the 1980s – were likely exposed to asbestos through their occupation. This exposure can lead to mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer and more diseases.
- Dental materials that may contain asbestos are molding compounds, dental tape and periodontal dressing. Although these materials were used in rare cases, there is still a risk for dentists.
- There are at least seven reported cases of former dentists diagnosed with mesothelioma. One who filed an asbestos lawsuit received a multi-million-dollar verdict.
Overview of Asbestos in Dentistry
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. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and a deadly lung scarring disease called asbestosis.
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 due to materials and their ingredients.
Dental lining tape was found to contain traces of asbestos. Asbestos was used in the powder-like molding compounds dentists used to create artificial teeth. More recently, chrysotile asbestos was discovered in casting rings and periodontal dressings. Due to this discovery, dentists today are considered at-risk for occupational asbestos exposure.
Asbestos in Dental Materials
Few dental products historically contained asbestos, but it is still a health hazard. No amount of asbestos is considered safe and even small amounts are dangerous.
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.”
Asbestos in Dental Tape, Molding Compounds, and Casting Rings
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 crafting casting rings.
Casting rings and molding compounds 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.
Asbestos in Periodontal Dressings
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.
Mesothelioma for Dentists
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 the rare cancer called mesothelioma. This disease forms in the lining of the lungs and abdominal cavity.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Loose fibers can travel through the respiratory system or airways and get stuck in these thin linings, irritating cells and causing them to mutate and form tumors.
There is a long latency period, usually several decades, between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer. Therefore, dentists exposed to asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s may be developing mesothelioma now.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit for Dental Technician
One of the first asbestos lawsuits for dental tape exposure took place in 2008. Marvin P., 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. 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 at least six other cases of dentists diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting in an asbestos lawsuit.
Help for Dentists With an Asbestos Disease
If you have mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, we can help. Our team of medical and legal experts will assist in finding treatment, learning about your asbestos exposure history and more.
Our patient advocates are available to answer any questions regarding your asbestos exposure and its effects on your health. Contact Carl Jewett, our VA-Accreditted Claims Agent or Karen Ritter, our registered nurse. Both have helped many mesothelioma victims get answers to their questions.
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.
- 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.