Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Researchers recently found that children who receive dental fillings made of bisphenol-A (BPA), a plastics chemical, could have behavioral changes that are small but be significant over a long period of time.
In the study, researchers examined 534 children in New England who had fillings for a minimum of two cavities. They looked at their social skills as part of the New England Children´s Amalgam Trial (NECAT) before the fillings and five years after having the fillings. The fillings were made up of two different kinds of material; one material is called amalgam, a silver blend that is longer used due to its use of mercury; and a second material made of bisGMA, which is based off of BPA.
“Some tooth-colored fillings known as composites were associated with worse social behavior in children age 11 to 16 at the end of the study,” researcher Nancy Maserejian, an epidemiologist and senior research scientist at the New England Research Institutes, told WebMD.
In particular, those children who had the highest amount of fillings made of bisGMA demonstrated more emotional problems five years after the procedure than children who had fewer bisGMA fillings. They were also more likely to do badly on exams regarding anxiety or friendships. No behavioral problems occurred with children who had fillings of amalgam. The findings were recently featured online and will be published in the August print edition of Pediatrics.
“It was actually kind of a surprise that instead of seeing any possible adverse associations with amalgam, that the trends seem to go the other way and the children in the composite group seemed to have more problems,” noted Maserejian in a U.S. News article. “On average, the difference in social behavior scores were very small and would probably not be noticed for each individual child“¦ But imagine a huge group of children around the country; you’d probably notice a difference.”
Interesting enough, previous research has shown a relationship between BPA exposure and aggressive activity or hyperactive among adolescents. Composite fillings, such as those made from BPA, were popular to treat children´s cavities in the 1990s as many thought they were safer than amalgam fillings. Patients also thought that the BPA-based fillings looked more natural.
“This study raises enough concern about the alternative of amalgam to revisit the value of amalgam,” remarked Dr. Burton Edelstein, a pediatric dentist and professor of dentistry at New York´s Columbia University, in the U.S. News article.
Based on the findings, public health professional believe that more research needs to be done.
“This study is a call for more research,” commented Dr. Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, in the U.S. News article.
Apart from the study, researchers believe that parents can work with their dentists to reduce exposure with instructions like asking the dentist to vacuum around the tooth following the application of the filling. Parents can also work to prevent cavities in their children by assisting them in brushing their teeth, taking them to the dentist twice a year, and offering water instead of sugary drinks for consumption.
“If you´ve got to have a filling, you´re better to go with one that does not have BPA, but that is not a panacea,” explained Edelstein in the U.S. News article. “The only real solution is to realize that no material is better than the material that Mother Nature gave us and to do a better job of [cavity] prevention.”