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Foreign dental prosthetics put U.S. patients at risk

11/30/2016

By Andy Jakson

One hundred billion dollars is a great deal of money, particularly when it leaves the United States. That amount of dental work is done in other countries, and it can put the U.S. dental patient at risk.

Many foreign dental prosthetics use materials that are not close to being similar to FDA-approved materials, and often are subpar. Permanently affixing – without disclosing – foreign dental prosthetics to someone’s mouth is concerning. We had Obamacare, which made no provision for oral health.

The Donald J. Trump administration needs to not forget dentistry or the hardworking American dental technician.

If President-elect Trump is serious about ending trade deficits, the dental industry is a quick fix and would protect the American public and jobs. It used to be that technology from other countries would set them apart; we were beaten in almost every area.

Today, in dentistry that is not the case. The technology and engineering skills that Americans have and are improving make us more competitive than ever; we could actually be close to the same cost per unit. American dental laboratory technicians are being totally left behind because of work being done in foreign labs.

If a crown, bridge, dentures or any prosthetics are purchased outside this nation, it puts American patients at risk and many Americans out of their chosen career.

The laboratory I built was proud to have hosted Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, the White House transition team’s congressional liaison, who has seen firsthand the struggles of small businesses and dental laboratories.

Eighty percent of dental work done elsewhere and returned to this country often does not have appropriate inorganic materials, and these components end up affixed to an individual’s mouth. Dentists and patients have no legal recourse if something goes wrong with Chinese or foreign prosthetics.

Some 65 percent of dental laboratories have closed in the United States in just over a decade, along with dental laboratory schools. The reason 2,000 dental laboratories closed last year is the availability of low-cost laboratory services outside of the United States.

This column is not a request for government subsidies; it is a request to put the safety of Americans first. It is requesting that the U.S. government require that patients are notified of foreign prosthetics, foreign materials and foreign laboratories before a dental prosthetic is placed in their mouths.

The laws governing American dental laboratories are obsolete. For example, almost a century ago laboratories were deemed incapable of  advertising, putting them at a huge disadvantage.

The American dental laboratory industry is technologically prepared to compete with any foreign prosthetic market. Perhaps we just need a chance.

Andy Jakson, of Williamsville, is CEO of Evolution Dental Science.

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