Sept. 7, 2010 -- Parents worried about mercury in amalgam dental fillings now have a new bugbear: BPA from dental sealants and "white" fillings.
Bisphenol A -- BPA -- is a resin used in many kinds of plastics, including some water bottles and metal food can liners. Emerging evidence suggests, but does not prove, that BPA can have harmful effects on human health, particularly on child development.
Dental sealants and fillings don't contain BPA, but many of them contain compounds that turn into BPA on contact with saliva. Is this a problem? That's what one mother recently asked in a letter sent to Children's Hospital, Boston.
To answer the question, pediatric endocrinologist Abby F. Fleisch, MD, and colleagues performed an exhaustive review of the scientific evidence. They came to two conclusions:
- BPA does indeed form in the mouth after some dental sealants and fillings are applied. BPA can be found in the saliva three hours after dental work is completed. It's not at all clear whether this poses a health risk.
- A quick wipe and rinse of the completed dental work vastly decreases whatever risk there might be.
"We believe the high preventive benefits of sealants far outweigh the risk. So until the dental industry creates alternative materials, we recommend their continued use," Fleisch tells WebMD. "But we do recommend precautionary application techniques."
Fleisch and colleagues had hoped to be able to recommend BPA-free brands of dental sealants and composites. But manufacturers are not required to disclose all of the ingredients in their products. Moreover, many use little-studied compounds such as triethylene glycol dimethacrylate (TEGDMA) and urethane dimethacrylate (UDMA) that may or may not pose risks of their own.
Fortunately, scrubbing and rinsing sealants and fillings after they are applied removes 88% to 95% of the compounds that can become BPA.
How hard is that to do? It's simple, says pediatric dentist Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, DDS, MPH, associate professor at the University of Rochester's Eastman Institute for Oral Health.
"If you spend 30 minutes placing a filling, scrubbing it for 30 seconds more is not going to kill you," Kopycka-Kedzierawski tells WebMD. "I would agree it is something we can do to protect our children."
Fleisch and colleagues report their findings in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Pediatrics.