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Concerns raised over Asian dental products -

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ELEANOR HALL: Representatives of Australian dental associations are raising concerns that cheap
dental products made overseas could be harming Australian patients.

They say some of these products contain heavy metals.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration is yet to rule on their safety but the products are
still allowed to be imported as Carly Laird reports.

CARLY LAIRD: You may be used to seeing "made in China" labels on anything from clothing to toys to
electronics but it might surprise you to learn that up to 30 per cent of what goes in your mouth at
the dentist may have been sourced from China, Hong Kong or the Philippines.

Rob Boshier is the national president of the Oral Health Professionals Association.

ROB BOSHIER: Most of our concerns arise from evidence that we now have that heavy metals are
present in some of the appliances from some of the countries.

CARLY LAIRD: What kind of heavy metals?

ROB BOSHIER: Things like beryllium, lead, some of these things are present in porcelain and they
are probably not a huge threat in porcelain but when they're present in the alloys they are
supporting some of these appliances, they are able to go into solution within the mouth and that is
where our concern arises.

CARLY LAIRD: So does that mean that it's ingested into the body?

ROB BOSHIER: Potentially yes. I mean logically one would assume that it is.

CARLY LAIRD: He says one case he was called in to fix a few years ago, involved products from the
Philippines.

ROB BOSHIER: A four unit bridge, anterior bridge which is teeth across the front. It was inserted
and within two days the restoration had blown up to the point that the supporting dentition was
lost and there was quite a deal of infection that had to be dealt with.

CARLY LAIRD: But he does say that there's no hard evidence that the imported products are
dangerous.

ROB BOSHIER: The thing is, most of it this is anecdotal. This is the challenge of the discussion
but I talked to a lot of technicians around Australia and most have been involved in cases where
something has failed.

CARLY LAIRD: Duncan Campbell is from the Australian Dental Industry Association.

He's also concerned that the imports aren't being put through as rigorous a testing process as
locally manufactured products are.

DUNCAN CAMPBELL: The TGA registered products and companies that are supplying products in Australia
list their products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

When dental products are made overseas they bypass this regulatory framework and so consumers don't
have those same safeguards that they have if they are using products that are coming through the
TGA registration process.

CARLY LAIRD: No one from the Therapeutic Goods Administration was available for interview. But this
is an excerpt from a written statement to The World Today.

EXCERPT FROM TGA STATEMENT (voiceover): The TGA is aware of claims that some dentists are
by-passing Australia's strict regulatory system by importing custom-made dental products without
ensuring the products are of acceptable quality.

Where the TGA becomes aware of instances of the possible illegal supply of therapeutic goods it
actively pursues these. However matters relating to professional practice standards are the
responsibility of state and territory health authorities.

CARLY LAIRD: The New South Wales president of the Australian Dental Association, Anthony Burgess,
says the products are safe.

He thinks that both of the concerned groups have a financial interest in keeping the manufacturing
onshore.

TONY BURGES: Most of the testing that has been done on these products has shown either negligible
contamination or no contamination by these contaminants that the Dental Technicians Association has
referred to.

I think what we are have got to be aware of is that both these groups have come out and I think it
is essentially scaremongering - that they have vested commercial interests in selling products to
Australian dentists and they are trying to ensure that they maintain their profit share.

CARLY LAIRD: But Rob Boshier rejects that notion.

ROB BOSHIER: Well, it's about patient outcomes. If you have patients who are having quite expensive
things blow up in the mouth and then they have to turn around and come up with other solutions and
quite often pay for them, I don't think it's just simply about protecting local industry.

ELEANOR HALL: Rob Boshier, the national president of the Oral Health Professionals Association
ending that report from Carly Laird.