Like most parents, we have confronted the dental concerns of our children and worked hard to avoid cavities. Even in lieu of vigilant brushing and flossing, however, cavities seem to be a fact of life for both kids and adults.

Dental Sealants

One way to avoid a lifetime of dental worries is to seal the teeth, a practice that is widely encouraged by dentists and, in many ways, makes perfect sense because they protect the teeth.

Sealants are synthetic resins that are placed over the surface of teeth and thereby protect the enamel from tooth decay. Though the dental profession seems to stand by sealants under virtually every circumstance, there have been some undercurrents of concern involving the safety of sealants, mainly over their chemical composition.

Sealants Often Contain BPA

The reason for this is due to the fact that sealants often contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has come under a great deal of scrutiny lately because it may have a number of potential physiological consequences in babies, children and adults, including changes in behavior and organ development, as well as possibly affecting the onset of puberty.

The problem is compounded by the fact that BPA is commonly used in a number of plastic products, including dental sealants.

Difficult to Discuss

Unfortunately, as much as I like our child's dentist, the fact that dental sealants contain BPA was never disclosed to us, though we were seemingly pressured into having them put on our kid's teeth. It is true that the responsibility lies with the parents to be aware of what is being put in their child's body, but I think that more effort could have been made to inform us of this fact, especially in light of all the news that BPA has generated.

Furthermore, as is not uncommon in medical situations, I've found that our questions and concerns were not only met with some degree of ambivalence, but seemed to be a source of annoyance to our dentist.

New Findings About BPA in Sealants

Now researchers are taking a closer look at BPA in sealants. According to a recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, what they've found is that BPA is in fact detectable in the saliva for up to three hours after the sealants have been placed in the children's mouth.

Experts acknowledge that the levels are much less prevalent than the exposure that occurs from food storage products, and they stress that dental procedures like sealants and fillings are still safe and often necessary, with the benefits far outweighing the low level of exposure. They nonetheless indicate that the field of dentistry may want to take notice of this potential source of exposure, and go so far as to recommend that pregnant women avoid these resins. At the very least, maybe dentists could be a little more sympathetic to anxieties of the hyper-informed parent, whose concerns may not be completely unfounded.

While I fully acknowledge that parental worry can reach into the realm of hysteria and fear-mongering, and can be a constant source of irritation to medical professionals, it is important to keep in mind that nobody is going to look out for the health and welfare of your child more than you. With this in mind, is it so unreasonable to want to be more informed about what is going into their bodies, and to have a say in whether or not they are being used without being made to feel like a fool?

For years, mercury was used as a component of amalgamated fillings. The debate still rages over whether there were any negative health consequences linked to this, but personally, I'd rather not have it in either my mouth or my children's mouths. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your dentist. If they refuse to discuss it with you, then consider taking your business elsewhere.

For information about BPA, visit the website for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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