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Hospital admissions for neurological and renal diseases among dentists and dental assistants occupationally exposed to mercury


Objectives For many years an amalgam containing metallic mercury, which has been associated with neurological and renal diseases, has been used in dentistry. In this nationwide study we compared hospital admissions due to neurological and renal diseases among dentists and dental assistants to admissions in controls.

Methods This register-based cohort study included all Danish workers employed in dental clinics, general practitioners' clinics or lawyers' offices between 1964 and 2006. We compared dentists with general practitioners and lawyers, and dental assistants with medical secretaries, nurses and legal secretaries. We also compared dentists and dental assistants employed during periods with high occupational mercury exposure with dentists and dental assistants employed during periods with less mercury exposure. We followed all subjects in a nationwide register of hospital admissions. We analysed risk of neurological diseases, Parkinson's disease and renal diseases using a Cox regression model.

Results The cohort consisted of 122 481 workers including 5371 dentists and 33 858 dental assistants. For neurological diseases, no association was observed for dental assistants, while for dentists an increasing risk for periods with less mercury exposure was observed. Among dental assistants, a negative association between employment length and risk of neurological disease was observed. Admissions for renal disease among dental assistants were increased during periods with less mercury exposure compared with controls. For dentists a non-significant increased risk was observed between employment length and renal disease risk.

Conclusions Our nationwide study does not indicate that occupational exposure to mercury increases the risk of hospital admissions for neurological, Parkinson's or renal diseases.

  • Dental amalgam
  • epidemiology
  • kidney disease
  • disease
  • nervous system
  • dental

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