Thursday, July 23, 2009

Safely Protecting Your Child's Teeth Via Dental Sealants -- Without Bisphenol A (BPA)

I'm moving, folks. I've been up to my ears in spackle and no-VOC paint for so long, I'm not prone to chatting at length on any topic. I must have a box or two to pack, or a floor to buff. So I was pretty amused when my dentist paused after bringing up the issue of dental sealants for my daughter's teeth (apparently my reaction was, errr hesitant and said, "Ahh, that's right! You are the BPA woman." As I've mentioned before, I really love my dentist, and this interaction was no exception to that rule. She pulled the Materials Safety Data Sheets out of her drawer, told me to call the company, and to do some research on safer sealants, completely giving me the green light to find an alternative.

Have I mentioned that I am moving in a couple weeks? Lucky for me, you Green Phone Booth readers (and, as you will see, the members of the Green Moms Carnival provide the perfect sounding board for my initial research. My kid's appointment is in early October -- and I bet my dentist will need a couple weeks to order the sealant. So we've got all summer to talk teeth!

First off, I'm kinda shocked that the ADA hasn't fast tracked discussion of dental enviro health issues since I wrote them a letter last summer (cough). As I noted in my letter in August '08:

Regarding the BPA in sealants, some research seems to indicate that it may be soluble in saliva at high levels during or immediately after application. (In the March 2006 Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers tested 14 volunteers immediately after sealant application and found that patients who received Delton Light Cure (LC) Opaque brand absorbed about 110 micrograms of BPA, 20 times that absorbed by recipients of another brand, Helioseal F (5.5 micrograms). Delton Light Cure (LC) leached amounts similar to those that caused developmental toxicity in rodent studies and, at 42.8 parts per billion (ppb), are higher than the highest amount found in canned food, 38 ppb.... ") Is there an alternative to BPA-based sealants that is effective and safe? I tend to try to avoid potentially toxic chemicals (like endocrine disruptors) even if the jury's still out because I have young children with developing bodies. If I am getting rid of a baby bottle that may or may not leach minute amounts of BPA, I certainly want to avoid a massive ingestion of BPA during the application of a tooth sealant.

ADA inactivity aside, guess which brand of dental sealant my dentist uses? Of course! Delton Light Cure! And yes, I've read the ADA statement, read it last year, in fact, and I still don't want to test out their theory that, "When compared with all other sources of BPA, these dental materials pose significantly lower exposure concerns." I'm betting the ADA thinks I still eat canned food. As if. I've also read the industry pro-BPA spiel. I am not sure what the risk level really is for dental sealants, to be sure, but I am aware that companies are making sealants without this potentially problematic side effect. So why risk it atall? Katy from Non-Toxic Kids agrees, and urges parents to ask dentists for BPA free sealants.

So what are specific brands that are BPA free? According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "No dental sealants are made with BPA, but the older versions of one brand are made with a compound that breaks down into BPA when it comes into contact with saliva, causing high but temporary elevations in blood levels of BPA. The brand is Delton from Dentsply International of York, Pennsylvania. According to a company representative, newer versions of Delton that have either the plus sign (+) or the word “plus” in their name do not contain the compound that breaks down into BPA."

That completely jibes with what they told me! I called Delton and their super helpful and friendly customer service rep said, after commenting that the ADA has a statement about BPA and that the levels in their products were low, that they offer products that do not contain BPA. She said if I want to avoid BPA not to use the Light Cure (Light Curing Pit and Fissure Sealant Direct Delivery System, for you geeky MSDS readers) or the Self Cure products. Ask for Delton FS Plus or the Seal and Glow products. Excellent!

Tara Parker Pope's blog Well notes that although dentists back sealants despite bpa exposure risk there are specific products that meet a BPA-free criteria:

"A review of 16 studies by the Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit group that evaluates medical research, ...found that three products did not release detectable amounts of BPA: Helioseal from Ivoclar Vivadent; Seal-Rite from the Pulpdent Corporation; and Conseal from SDI (North America). All carried the 2007 American Dental Association seal."

Great! BPA free sealants. Which are, of course, still composite plastic sealants. And I still don't have that pesky chemistry degree and Lord knows what else is worrisome in those sealants, right? I'm not sure what I will do, since my kid has had a number of cavities (we all blame it on the fruit leather around here). I'm thinking that mercury fillings are to be avoided, and, although it seems pretty benign health-wise, she might not forgive me if I gild her teeth.

Beth from Fake Plastic Fish suggested I contact the Eco Dentistry Association (of which her dentist is a member). So I asked them (and will update if they respond): "I'm seeking info on BPA in dental sealants. Or rather, the reverse. I'd like to minimize my child's exposure to BPA in dental sealants, and even if they are safe for my child I want to minimize the amount of BPA I send down the pipeline in wastewater. Do you have recommendations for BPA free sealants or other specific products you'd recommend in lieu of sealants containing BPA? Thanks very much."

Green Bean gave some sage counsel: "I'll jump in here just because my dad is a dentist and I went through this with my oldest who had 8 cavities at once!! I'm pretty aware about toxins. I grilled my dad and everyone on sealants, mercury v. plastic (composite) fillings. We ended up going with composite because I was so paranoid about the mercury but my dad tells an interesting story about a super brainy scientist who once asked him for the materials list on the plastic fillings. After taking a look at that, the scientist decided mercury exposure was a better bet." Sigh.

Anna from Green-Talk weighs in: "My dentist is also into kinesthesiology so he muscle tested for adverse reactions to the plastic. (Chiropractors use this method to find out what you are sensitive to.) There are many different plastic composites used today. Some my kids have tested negatively to. But the BPA questions is really a good one to ask. I had all of my mercury fillings removed with a proper protocol to reduce mercury exposure from the removal of the mercury." She also rec'd I check out the Holistic Dental Association.

Jennifer Taggart aka The Smart Mama proffered the following advice (which she found while doing research on this topic):
Dental providers can avoid the potential for BPA toxicity from dental sealants by treating the surface layer of the sealant immediately after placement to reduce the possibility of unpolymerized BPA remaining on the tooth by:
  1. Using a mild abrasive, such as pumice, either on a cotton applicator or with a prophy cup.
  2. Having older children and adolescents gargle with tepid water for 30 seconds.
  3. Washing the surface of the sealant for 30 seconds with an air-water syringe while suctioning fluids and debris from a child's mouth.
How bout you guys? Any relevant info I should consider? Alternatives to sealants? Safer sealants? Out of the box suggestions?


C.E. said...

This is all so new to me. I didn't know that sealing teeth is the thing to do. Are kids getting more cavities than they used to? Is this because everyone is avoiding flouride? My little six-year-old hasn't been to the dentist in a while...I wonder what we will be in for...

Di said...

what the? Never heard of teeth sealing and no idea why the heck it's done??? Seems like something the dentists have made up to make more money IMO. Seriously... why are they advocating this?

JessTrev said...

I think the basic theory is that sealants will prevent decay in the first place. Rather than treating cavities. Not that drills aren't fun for all of us! They are pretty commonplace here (DC) but curious to hear about other parts....

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

It is so frustrating to constantly have to make these kinds of decisions! Why can't companies and industries make better choices in the first place so we don't have to do so much research every time we buy something??!!

Please be sure to update us on what you end up doing.

Kelsie said...

I had numerous teeth sealed way back when I was 10 or 11. The doctor did it because I have deep "pits" in my teeth that he was 100% certain would turn into cavities at some point.

I'm not saying preventative sealing is a decision I would have made for myself, but now that I'm 26 and haven't had any cavities in recent memory, I'm pretty grateful. :)

JessTrev said...

Erin - I totally agree - I could not be more sick of feeling like I perpetually have to research my every move to keep my family safe.

Kelsie - thanks for your input - I am guessing we will go the route of using sealants, one that is BPA-free to be sure, but it's helpful to know they've been successful in your case....

flowers said...

We aren't going to seal, but we did use a composite filling for my 4 year old's cavities that was BPA-free.
NAvigating through the dental waters have so far been my biggest challenge in natural health & parenting. First dentist wanted to put mercury fillings in (!!!!), second wanted to do a baby root canal (toxic, toxic toxic!) and I had to go to 3 others before I found someone who was willing to answer my questions, go over my options and let me stay in the room and NOT traumatize him if he was having a hard time. We ended up doing three BPA composite fillings and extracting one tooth where the decay had gone to the root.

It was upsetting for me and we are now on a nutrient dense diet to help keep his future teeth strong and hard.

JessTrev said...

flowers - thanks so much - if you know the brand of the BPA free composite filling I'd love it for future reference. also, did you have any guidance for your nutrient rich diet that's specifically tooth-related, or is it common sense/Weston A Price Fdn related? Thanks!

flowers said...


We started with Weston Price and the nutrient rich bone broths, real fats etc really resonated with me. We also do the Cod Liver Oil and x-factor butter oil.

I don't know the specific composite brand, but if you wanted to you could google Dr. Ira Kamp in Ithaca, NY and they would love to answer your questions. They try to be as holistic and conscious as possible and they are the ones who told me there was BPA in the other composites.

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the round up, Jess. Nice to know that there are some alternatives as I'd probably opt for the sealant over more cavities. Looking forward to reading whatever else you find out!

Alicia [The Soft Landing] said...

BPA in dental sealants is one of those concerns that I haven't had the time to address yet (with the other million feeding products to research!). It's been badgering the back of mind mind for so long, so I'm thrilled to see you tackle it and can't wait to see how your findings develop!

acte gratuit said...

Can't comment on all of these safety issues, but as the wife of a pediatric dentist, I can offer some tips in prevention:

It's not so much the type of food/candy, it's the frequency. Much better to eat a piece of candy or drink a soda, quickly. It's horrible for your teeth to nurse a drink all day or suck on a sucker. (But yes, anything sugary and sticky, i.e. fruit roll-ups, is no bueno.)

Brush your kids teeth. No, don't send them to the bathroom to do it themselves, YOU do it! Every night. My oldest is 8 and he's just now allowed to do it himself...and even then Dad checks.

If your kids are uncooperative, here's how you do it:
Sit on the floor.
lay your screaming, thrashing one/two/four/six-year-old's head on the floor in front of you. (So that both pairs of legs are pointing the same direction.)
Put your legs on top of Junior's arms so they are pinned and his head is supported by your thighs.

Brush away.
Use a Reach flossser to floss the little bugger.

Sure it's a little traumatic for all parties, but so are cavities.
Good luck!

acte gratuit said...

Oh yeah, like it or hate it, fluoride is great for teeth. If you don't want to drink it, (which I'm betting you don't) make sure your kids use a fluoride mouthwash. Rinse and spit.
Every night.

Anonymous said...

Jess, please do let me know if Eco Dentistry gets back to you. Or I'll ask myself at my next appointment.

Lynn from OrganicMania said...

Hey Jess,

Thanks for this informative post. Just pulled it up as I was googling for info on sealants while sitting here with Big Boy at the dentist's office. Any updates? And how's that move going?



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