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LONDON, UK: The use of gold in dental applications declined further in 2013. According to provisional figures released by the World Gold Council in London in February, between 3 and 4 per cent less of the precious material was used in dentistry last year compared with 2012.
Globally, a total of 37.3 tons of gold was used by the profession in the last 12 months, with dentists in Japan and the US remaining the two top consumers. In a statement, the council said that the drop in sales is due to the high price of precious metals on the world market and the continuation of the long-term trend away from gold cast alloys to cheaper alternatives, like ceramics.
“Although not all clinical problems linked to all-ceramic and fibre-reinforced composites have been resolved, these materials are poised to become the material of choice for dental restorations worldwide. As more aesthetic and less expensive treatment options are gaining popularity, the use of gold in dentistry will continue to decrease,” Dr Jukka Pekka Matinlinna, Associate Professor of Dental Materials Science at the University of Hong Kong, commented the figures.
Fabrication of dental gold peaked in 2004, when more than 67 tons was used in dentistry worldwide. Since then, the material has seen a rapid decline, particularly in developed markets like the US. Figures from a Thomson Reuters report indicate that demand there almost halved in 2012 compared with what was produced in the country almost a decade ago. Germany, still the third-largest consumer of dental gold in 2003, only put slightly over 2 tons on the market in 2012, a fragment of the 12.9 tons the country was using ten years earlier.
Demand has also plummeted in South Korea and Italy, two of the other top five consumers of dental gold. With 19 tons a year, Japan currently remains the largest user owing to the subsidisation of kinpala 12, a popular gold-palladium dental alloy, by the Japanese government.
With the first records of its use dating back to AD 200, gold is one of the oldest materials used by man to fill decayed teeth. It is still popular among many dentists owing to its high durability and biocompatibility, which makes it suitable for patients allergic to other metal-based restorative materials, such as amalgam. Poor aesthetics in gingival regions and anterior teeth restorations, however, have limited its range of applications.