Information on the choice of material and performance of restorations placed in a dental practice annually is limited. The Minamata Convention on Mercury is likely to affect the use of amalgam worldwide. The objective of this research was to investigate the use of restorative materials at the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry in New Zealand from 1998 to 2017.
Data from the Faculty of Dentistry's database from the years of interest were compiled. These data included information on the characteristics of restorations, including information on the material used and number of surfaces involved for each restoration. The tooth in which each restoration was placed was categorized by arch, tooth type, and deciduous or permanent dentition.
Records identified 227,514 permanent restorations placed from January 1998 to December 2017, of which 91.7% were direct restorations. Among direct restorations, composite resin was the most commonly used material, followed by amalgam, glass ionomer, and compomer. The use of amalgam for direct restorations decreased from 52.3% of direct restorations in 1998 to 7.1% in 2017. A corresponding increase was observed in the use of tooth-colored direct restorations, particularly composites. Among indirect restorations, porcelain fused to metal, gold, and stainless steel (in pediatric applications) were the materials most frequently used.
Despite having no official policy on reducing the use of dental amalgam, the Faculty of Dentistry is following the global trend in reducing its use, with composite resin now well established as the predominant restorative material used. If the current rate of decline persists unchecked, the Faculty of Dentistry could transition to being amalgam free by 2020, although it seems likely that the characteristics and principles of use of the material (and its removal) will be taught for some time to come. This knowledge is important to planning curriculum changes needed to prepare graduates for clinical practice.