Global warming, tornadoes, royal weddings and overthrown governments compete for our attention these days. Sometimes it’s hard to know what deserves our notice and consideration and whom to believe.
Bisphenol A – or BPA
The media is notorious for using health topics as news teasers to grow their audiences. Bisphenol A, an organic component in many plastic consumer products, is one of the current controversies. You might know this as “BPA,” a material used in the manufacture of plastic water bottles.
BPA, a polycarbonate, has been used in consumer products for more than 50 years. It’s found in eyeglass lenses, baby bottles, compact discs, reusable food containers, toys, dinnerware and the paper receipts you get at the checkout counter. It’s also used in the epoxy resin that lines the inside of cans of baked beans and chicken noodle soup. It’s everywhere – even in trace amounts in dental sealants and composites. And, that’s why I’m writing this blog. I want to address the concerns that some of you might have.
The truth is that opinions vary widely among experts. Some studies on rodents and aquatic organisms suggest that BPA could possibly mimic the behavior of the female hormone estrogen. Similar claims have been made about soy products. Other studies have possibly linked BPA exposure to developmental problems in animal fetuses. BPA can be inhaled, eaten or absorbed. Because there is inconsistent evidence some entities have banned baby bottles and other children’s products containing BPA, while others are not convinced the cited studies have a strong correlation to human health.
The American Dental Association (ADA) says, “These effects have not been observed in humans and are questionable at the exposure levels resulting from consumer products.” Experts consulted by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations say that BPA does not accumulate in the body because it is excreted quickly. “Initiation of public health measures would be premature,” the organizations stated in November 2010. Even Consumers Reports still recommends dental sealants and composites to the public.
The ADA thinks that worries about the extremely small and limited BPA exposure from dental products in particular are unwarranted at this time, and I’d have to agree. According to the ADA, “the amount of BPA to which people are exposed is estimated to be much lower than the amount of BPA exposure considered safe by government agencies.” …But, that’s not to say I’m not concerned about this topic. I most definitely want what’s best for my patients, and I’ll be one of the first to yank these products if I find out they are a problem at the extremely low levels currently present in dental plastics. Ideally, dental materials manufacturers will soon come up with replacement products that perform the same but contain no BPA, and then this debate will be moot.
Presently, there is no low-cost alternative available to mercury-containing, silver amalgam fillings other than composites. Gold and porcelain restorations are prohibitively expensive for some patients, so composites are these patients’ only affordable option to these mercury-silver fillings.
I also will continue to use sealants – along with fluoride and diet and hygiene recommendations – to ensure the dental health of our youngest patients. It’s our goal to get them to age 18 without any fillings in their permanent teeth, and for the most part we are succeeding. An amazingly high percentage of our child and teen patients have no decay and no fillings, something unheard of a generation ago! Statistics indicate that children with no fillings by the time they turn 18 are unlikely to need any restorative dentistry when they are adults. That means no crowns or bridges, and that means better overall health and huge financial benefits!
This topic is complicated, and I will continue to monitor this debate and the research findings concerning BPA. If you would like to discuss this further, please give my Southfield dentist office a call at (248) 356-8790.
So until next time,
Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD