A new study out of the New England Research Institutes of Watertown, Massachusetts, has found that a resin compound commonly used in dental fillings may be a cause for concern. According to the research, fillings made out of a bisphenol-A glycidyl methacrylate (bisGMA)-based composite may be inadvertently causing behavioral and psychosocial issues in the children that have them.
While bisGMA may not be the most widely known material, its main component bisphenol-A (more commonly known as BPA) is no stranger to controversy. Commonly found in the linings of cans, as well as in food and drink containers, BPA has been vehemently protested by those wanting to see it banned from being used in children’s toys and baby bottles. Now, dental researchers fear that significant amounts of the dangerous chemical may be leaching into children’s mouths by way of these fillings—and this is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many.
In the course of the five year study, 534 children between the ages of 6 and 10 were evaluated by Dr. Nancy Maserejian and her team at the New England Research Institutes. Some children examined had bisGMA fillings and others had fillings made of a urethane dimethacrylate-based polyacid-modified composite.
In the end the team found that 16 percent of children with the highest levels of BPA exposure exhibited problems with behavior that included instances of depression, delinquent behaviors, acting out, and issues with attention and self-esteem. “On average, the difference in social behavior scores were very small and would probably not be noticed for each individual child,” explained Maserejian. “But imagine a huge group of children around the country; you’d probably notice a difference.” Add the risk of multiple cavities per child, and the danger also escalates.
While silver amalgam fillings were the go-to fillings for well over 150 years, new bisGMA fillings have gained in popularity because its white color most resembles a natural tooth. Amalgam fillings have also seen its fair share of hullabaloo due to numerous reports that the amalgam material contained suspicious levels of mercury. Regarding that issue, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends having amalgam fillings removed only if the fillings are in less than good condition—otherwise, it is unnecessary.
As for bisGMA fillings, researchers agree that until additional studies are processed, nothing should be set in stone. But if you would like to encourage the American Dental Association (ADA) to provide patients with the safest and most effective fillings, write to the ADA President, and sign the petition here.
Regardless of these current or future findings, what can be certain is that in order to cut down on this risk the best way to steer clear of the problem would be to prevent cavities in the first place. Dr. Mary Hayes, a spokesperson for the ADA as well as a Chicago-based pediatric dentist has put it in the simplest terms: “I’m going to use this study as another educational opportunity…The best tooth material is your own.”
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