Written by P. Humbargar
A new study appears to have discovered a link between composite tooth fillings manufactured with BPA and behavioral problems in children. As BPA has been linked to numerous health issues (this month the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups), parents are undoubtedly now concerned about the type of fillings their children have—or will be having.
BPA is short for bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastics. It is also widely used in food packaging and in the lining of cans.
In the past, silver-blend fillings, called amalgams, were used as fillings; but due to concerns about the mercury they contain, they are being phased out in favor of composites. Some of these composites are manufactured with BPA, and some are not.
The study, led by epidemiologist Nancy Maserejian, looked at 534 kids, aged 6 to 10, who had cavities. The children were then randomly chosen to get either amalgam fillings or one of two types of composite fillings—one of which used BPA in the manufacturing process.
After five years, the kids and their parents answered questions about anxiety and depression, attitudes at school, and overall behavior.
The findings showed that the kids who had multiple fillings manufactured with BPA and had had them for an extended period of time consistently scored worse (two to six points) on 100-point behavior measures than the kids who had amalgams or composites made without BPA and the kids who had composites made with BPA that had been in place for only a short time.
Maserejian admits that the difference in these social behavior scores is very small and that they are not really sure if BPA or another chemical in the composite is causing these effects. It’s possible that the fillings contain residual BPA that was used in making them, but more research is needed, she says.
Dr. Mary Hayes, spokesperson for the American Dental Association, also says that the study is a call for more research.
So, where does this leave parents who are understandably concerned about the possible dangers composite fillings manufactured with BPA pose?
Although there is no consensus among the experts, Columbia professor of dentistry and pediatric dentist Dr. Burton Edelstein suggests that if your child has to have a filling, go with one that does not contain BPA. And be sure the dentist follows standard procedures like vacuuming around the tooth after applying the filling.
Edelstein also says that the real solution is to do a better job of cavity prevention, as Mother Nature has given us the best materials.
Parents can do their part to help prevent cavities by simply giving their children water instead of sugary drinks and making sure they brush their teeth properly. Have them visit the dentist regularly to keep small problems from becoming big ones.
To learn more about preventing cavities in children by visiting the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, click here.