09:21 AM

Sealants (yes)!

An article posted in the September 7 online issue of the journal Pediatrics, has stirred up a lot of media interest in the chemical BPA in dental materials such as sealants.

First let me state that dental sealants—the thin layer of plastic coating painted onto the surface of the teeth by your oral health professional – are one of the most effective tools in dentistry to prevent recurring dental cavities in children and teenagers.

The Pediatrics Journal article’s authors found that BPA is released only when certain chemicals in the sealants come in contact with saliva. BPA may be detected in saliva for up to 3 hours after the sealants are applied. How much is absorbed is not known.

You’ve probably heard of BPA -- the controversial chemical found in plastic food-storage containers and some water bottles. Earlier studies showed that its endocrine-disrupting, estrogen-like properties can pose health risks. Recommendations were made to reduce all exposure to BPA. That’s why the media has taken such an interest in this academic article.

I am concerned that mothers will only hear ‘BPA’ and skip getting this preventive dental treatment for their children.

The study’s authors explain that the exposure to BPA from dental materials is much smaller and less frequent than with the other sources. And there are common sense things that oral health professionals can do to reduce exposure to the chemical for their patients. They can use rubber dams to localize the teeth being worked on and prevent the resin from touching saliva. And, they can then wipe or rinse away any residue after treatment.

The bottom line is that because of the strong cavity fighting benefits of dental sealants and the limited exposure to BPA, the authors of this study do recommend that sealants continue to be used in pediatric dentistry.

And so do I.