BPA in Dental Restorations: Does It Matter?

BPA in dental workLast week we started talking about whether the chemical BPA (bisphenol-A) will prove to be the next dental amalgam.

There’s more than just a passing similarity between the issues. Both mercury and BPA are known to be harmful in certain quantities. Both can be found in some dental restorations. And in both cases, the scientific evidence is inconclusive about how much BPA or mercury these restorations release into the human body.

Let’s also note that there are significant differences. Mercury is a metallic element that is poisonous in its raw form. Bisphenol-A is a plastic additive that appears to have an estrogen-like effect on cells.

When it comes to possible toxic effects of BPA, here’s what the ADA says:

The ADA believes any concern about potential BPA exposure from dental sealants or composites is unwarranted at this time. When compared with other sources of BPA, these dental materials pose significantly lower exposure concerns.

Published in the ADA Journal in 2006, the research study Exposure to bisphenol A from bis-glycidyl dimethacrylate–based dental sealants found measurable amounts of BPA in patients’ saliva after the application of dental sealants. Though the study concluded, “Sealants should remain a useful part of routine preventive dental practice, especially those that leach negligible amounts of BPA,” it also recommended further research:

Clinical Implications. Dental sealants may be a point source for low-level BPA exposure at levels that show health effects in rodents. Further research is required to determine whether human exposure to BPA at these levels causes adverse effects.

In a November 2008 statement, the ADA acknowledged that BPA can be found in some dental products:

BPA may become part of dental sealants or composite resin filling materials in three ways: as a direct ingredient, as a by-product of some ingredients in dental composites or sealants that may have degraded, or as a trace material left-over from the manufacture of some ingredients used in making dental composites or sealants.

But an ADA newsletter from April 2007 seems to contradict that:

BPA is a chemical found in many hard plastics and used in resins that line food and beverage cans. Although some believe BPA is an ingredient in dental sealants and composites, it isn’t, although there’s some evidence that some dental sealants and to a lesser extent composites may contribute to low-level BPA exposure, probably through the action of salivary enzymes on a minor ingredient. We see no cause for concern at this time but do look forward to the results of a review of a draft report on BPA safety by an independent NIH panel of endocrinologists, statisticians and biologists.

While the possible estrogen-like effects of BPA are news to most consumers, the ADA and concerned dentists have been aware of this issue for many years. In a 1996 letter to the Journal of the American Dental Association, two dental professors from Tufts wrote:

“An article appeared in the March 1996 issue of Environmental Health Prospectives entitled ‘Estrogenicity of resin based composites and sealants in dentistry’ that raises some familiar concerns that critics of the profession have espoused. The thesis elaborated in this article states that the bisphenol-A and bisphenol-A dimethacrylaic components of sealant and resins are estrogenic and probably contribute to xenoestrogen exposure in humans.

“As dental professionals who have seen dentistry criticized for the use of mercury in restoratives and the lack of appropriate disinfection procedures for our instruments and equipment, we feel that this issue should be resolved through competent scientific investigation. Hopefully, this issue will be addressed in a more intellectual and scientific manner than the emotion and hysteria that have been the center of some issues in dentistry in the recent past.”

Some 13 years later, we still don’t have conclusive scientific results about BPA’s safety. Consumers and dental professionals alike need a clearer scientific picture. But at the same time, no one needs mass hysteria that keeps patients from getting the dental restorations they need. While the health risks of BPA exposure might not be clear, the risks of tooth decay and abscessed teeth certainly are.

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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