A newly-released report links exposure to asbestos-containing dental tape to several cases of malignant mesothelioma among dentists as well as those who were responsible for casting crowns and bridges and making other dental prosthetic devices from the 1930s to 1970s.
The study, which was profiled in an article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, cited six cases of malignant mesothelioma – mostly among dentists – attributed to exposure to airborne asbestos dust from the dental tape that was used in the mid-20th century.
“According to evidence available at present, chrysotile asbestos was the type of asbestos used in dental tape in the past in the United States,” the study proclaimed, “and the described cases followed relatively brief and intermittent exposure to this type of asbestos.
These cases underscore the need for comprehensive exposure histories to determine exposure scenarios.”
Cases of mesothelioma among dentists are quite unusual. Generally, the disease is linked to exposure in factories, mills, refineries, and other industrial locations as well as exposure to asbestos-containing building materials.
Those with the highest likelihood of developing the disease including construction workers, machinists, steel workers, welders, insulators, electricians, pipefitters, plumbers, and others who worked with toxic asbestos on a regular basis.
However, what the diagnoses of these dentists proves is that even the smallest amount of exposure to airborne asbestos can be lethal. It’s likely that dentists and dental lab workers encounter only small quantities of the material, but – as experts have stated over and over again – no amount of exposure to asbestos is too small to cause mesothelioma and other related diseases.
The study authors, who hailed from Queens College, City University of New York and Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, believe the importance of the study is, indeed, to stress the fact that while NO exposure to asbestos is the best-case scenario, those who believe they suffered even small bits of exposure should remain diligent about being checked for the disease and about including mention of that exposure to their medical doctors.
The sooner mesothelioma is diagnosed, the better chance for a longer survival, and early detection happens with regular screening.
By the middle of the 20th century, some 3,000 products contained asbestos so it’s not unusual that at least one of those products were part of the art of dentistry.
The mineral was used because of its superior strength and its fire-resistant quality. It is likely that it was added to dental tape to make it more long-lasting.
Unfortunately, however, even by the 1930s, asbestos was recognized as a danger to human health. Nonetheless, companies kept using it.
In the dental industry, manufacturers like Kerr Corporation and Randsom and Randolf (Dentsply Corporation) thought nothing of putting asbestos in their tapes, regardless of the fact that dental technicians and dentists would be exposed to asbestos during their work with crowns, bridges, and other devices.