Local dentists are finding it hard to swallow a proposed Erie County law that would require them to disclose where a patient's crowns, bridges and dentures were made.
Dr. Raymond G. Miller, president of the region's Dental Society representing more than 1,000 dentists, described the proposed law as "prejudicial, insulting and misleading."
He said the local law would create "misguided, unnecessary" regulatory burdens that do nothing to protect patient health.
"The very implication of a bill suggests that dentists are doing something wrong," Miller said. "That we are delivering inferior products or materials, that we need control by the government of Erie County to stop this unethical and improper treatment of patients. This is far from the truth."
Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca, proposed the local law in July.
In response to the dentists' concerns, Lorigo said he will draft a compromise version or amend the existing proposal to address their complaints but still protect consumers. The revised proposal would still require support from a majority of legislators and the county executive.
"We're not banning anything. We're not restricting anything," Lorigo said. "We're just requiring disclosure."
Lorigo said laws require the fabric industry to tell all consumers where their clothing is made. But no law requires dentists to tell patients where dental materials -- cemented and left in patients' mouths for decades -- come from.
Lorigo said he was persuaded to introduce the law after speaking with Andy Jakson, owner of the Evolution Dental Science lab in Cheektowaga. Jakson recounted his firsthand experience working with a lab in China that purported to make crowns and other permanent dental fixtures for patients from materials approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In reality, the company was selling the FDA-approved materials on the black market and shipping back dental products made with inferior products.
But the local dental association said if any additional regulations need to be added, they should be put on dental labs -- not dentists. The proposed law creates disclosure requirements for both dentists and labs. Dentists could be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 for failing to disclose where their dental fixtures are made, and that drew sharp criticism.
"If this law had been enacted in 1981 -- the year I completed my dental residency at Buffalo General Hospital -- none of my patients, or those of my residents, who I have served for 37 years, would be better off," said Frank Barnashuk, a trustee with the New York State Dental Association and faculty member with the University at Buffalo's School of Dental Medicine. "This law would not have prevented harm or improved the health for any of the patients I serve."
Dentists also pointed out that dental devices are regulated by the FDA.
The local Dental Society has actively lobbied against the law since Lorigo introduced it. A lawyer for the state's Dental Association wrote a letter to Miller outlining multiple reasons why the state association believes the proposed law would be legally invalid, saying Lorigo's proposal would criminalize legal actions and contradict federal and state laws.
Other county legislators said they had received letters from dentists raising concerns.
Lorigo objected to some of the dentists' letters.
"I've never dealt with professionals that have been more disrespectful and rude than the people who contacted me regarding this law," he said.
Dental Society representatives at a legislative health committee meeting Thursday said they did not condone the tone of such letters.
Jakson, the dental lab owner, said he believes some dentists are unknowingly using dental materials that are made in foreign countries.
Miller said he opposes the idea of a law that would apply to Erie County dentists but no one else.