An article published in Pediatrics assessing the benefits and potential health risks of dental materials that may contain bisphenol A (BPA) has generated extensive media coverage in the United States. The results of this literature review reinforce the view that the benefits of resin-based dental materials far outweigh any potential health concerns.
The article reviewed the existing literature on possible BPA exposure from dental materials to determine if this posed any health risks to children. In their overall recommendations, the authors concluded:
“On the basis of the substantiated preventive benefits of resin-based dental sealants and given the brevity of elevated exposure to BPA after sealant application, we recommend continuing application of resin-based sealants in dental practice and in school-based/school-linked dental sealant programs.”
Along with recommending that manufacturers disclose more details about the chemical composition of their products, the authors suggest that dentists employ precautionary measures to minimize any avoidable BPA exposure from dental sealants or composites.
CDA agrees with such a precautionary approach and suggests that dentists fully cure sealants or composites according to manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, dentists can treat the surface layer by performing one of the following 3 procedures:
- use a mild abrasive, such as pumice, either on a cotton applicator or in a prophy cup;
- have older children and adolescents gargle with tepid water for 30 seconds; or
- wash the sealant surface for 30 seconds with an air-water syringe while suctioning fluids and debris from the child’s mouth.
Members of the public and media often fail to realize that BPA is not an ingredient of resin-based dental sealants. Dental sealants may contain monomers that are derived from BPA (such as bis-GMA and bis-DMA), but BPA itself is not an ingredient in dental sealants. However, trace amounts of BPA may be present as a residual effect of the manufacturing process of some dental sealants.
Health Canada conducted a risk assessment on BPA and announced its results on April 18, 2008. The report concluded that BPA exposure from dental sealants and composites is extremely small in comparison to other sources and is limited to a small number of products. The minimal exposure generally occurs within the first few hours after placement and then quickly reduces to virtually nothing. Once the material is placed and hardened, it becomes very stable.
Health Canada’s provisional standard on BPA levels in humans is 25 micrograms daily per kilo of body weight. No restrictions are planned for dental composites or sealants as potential exposures of BPA from these materials fall well within Health Canada’s safety margins.
Dentists can visit the CDA website for more BPA resources.