TUESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The fillings and sealants
that many dentists use can expose children to the controversial
chemical bisphenol A (BPA), a new analysis indicates, but such
exposure is short-lived and it remains unclear whether or not it
poses a long-term health risk.
Although these products do not contain pure BPA, saliva can
cause the fillings and sealants to leach. This releases the
chemical into the mouth and breaks it down to its pure form, the
While the study authors do not recommend a ban of these dental
products with pediatric patients, they caution parents and dentists
to take steps that could minimize any potential risks associated
with exposure to the ubiquitous chemical, which is found in many
plastic products and has been linked to health issues such as male
impotence, infant behavioral problems and birth defects.
"The research that exists shows that upon contact with enzymes in the saliva some, but not all, BPA derivatives break down to pure BPA, and that BPA is said to be in saliva for a short time period of up to three hours," explained study author Dr. Abby F. Fleisch, a pediatrician in the department of medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, which is part of Harvard Medical School.
"However, much of the risk that might be associated with this exposure is theoretical," she noted. "So, there's still a need for additional research looking at both systemic absorption -- as a result of this BPA exposure -- into the blood and the urine, and whether there is a more chronic low-level leaching of BPA underway."
Fleisch and her colleagues report their findings in the October
Strong, easy-to-use and translucent, dental resins and sealant
composites that contain BPA are a popular tool used to protect
teeth from decay and to repair decayed, broken, or malformed
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, BPA has been
used in the manufacturing of hard plastic bottles and metal cans
since the 1960s. The agency notes that toxicity testing has
indicated that human exposure to small amounts of the chemical is
However, some recent research with laboratory animals has linked
BPA exposure to heart health issues, an increased risk for cancer
and diabetes, and some degree of sexual dysfunction and
hyperactivity. In addition, particular concerns have also been
raised about the potential risk to the brain, prostate and
behavioral health of young children, infants and fetuses.
In light of that concern, the FDA in January took "reasonable
steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply" by
funding additional BPA research to the tune of $30 million. At the
same time, the agency has been working with manufacturers to move
away from products that contain the compound.
Fleisch and her team noted, however, that the agency has not
banned BPA from the market.
The authors focused their analysis on the use of BPA-laced
materials in dental products by reviewing what they characterized
as "sparse" and "mixed" findings dating back about 15 years.
Based on their review, they found there is exposure to pure BPA
following dental procedures, but it appears to be short-lived. They
added that some products contained different variations and
concentrations of BPA.
So, while noting that resin-based sealants are a critical tool
for maintaining good oral health in children, the study authors
called for manufacturers to label their sealant products to help
dentists distinguish which formulations are more or less risky.
The research team also stressed that steps should be taken to
minimize exposure to children and pregnant women "to the greatest
"There are simple precautionary application techniques that can be used to dramatically reduce BPA exposure for people getting these sealants or white fillings," Fleisch noted.
Gargling for about 30 seconds following application of a dental
sealant will remove any excess BPA derivatives, she explained, and
dentists can also clean off the sealant's surface once it has
BPA expert Scott Belcher, an associate professor of pharmacology
at the University of Cincinnati, said the research team's
recommendation "is probably the most reasonable choice right now in
terms of the tack to be taken."
"Given all the things we don't understand right now about BPA's possible effects, these are common-sense conclusions and recommendations," he said.
For more on bisphenol A, visit the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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