Pediatric dentists often recommend dental sealants for children. The American Dental Association (ADA) describes these as protective coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of a child's molars. Dental sealants are helpful in preventing decay — but because they are often made of plastics, parents may worry about their child's exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).
What Is BPA?
BPA is a chemical that's mainly used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Polycarbonate plastics are used in food and drink packaging, such as water bottles, while epoxy resins are often used to coat food cans, water supply pipes and other metal products. BPA is also used in some dental materials, including dental sealants.
When BPA is used in food and drink packaging or containers, it's possible for the chemical to seep into the food or beverage. The Mayo Clinic states that there are some potential health concerns associated with exposure to this chemical. BPA may affect children's brains and behavior, and it may also be linked to increased blood pressure. That being said, the Food and Drug Administration deems that current BPA levels in food packaging are safe.
Dental Sealants and BPA
Since BPA is sometimes found in sealant materials, parents may be hesitant to let their child receive this treatment. Fortunately, very small amounts of the chemical are released from dental sealants. After analyzing BPA release in 12 different dental sealants used across the U.S., the ADA found that the average sealant only released 0.09 nanograms of the chemical. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a limit of 1 million nanograms of BPA per day for a 6-year-old child, and dental sealants fall far below this threshold.
The ADA notes that children are exposed to a higher level of BPA through other common items, including food, drinks and cosmetics, such as shampoo. People of all ages are also exposed to BPA through the air.
Benefits of Dental Sealants
Even children who are diligent with their tooth brushing can have trouble keeping their molars clean. These teeth have deep grooves in their chewing surfaces, known as pits and fissures, that can let food and plaque accumulate. Dental sealants form a protective barrier in this area and help prevent cavities from forming, explains the ADA.
The impact of dental sealants on a child's oral health can be significant. The ADA reports that sealants can reduce the risk of molar decay by almost 80 percent. The ADA also explains that children who don't have sealants have nearly three times as many cavities as children who've received this preventative treatment.
Getting Dental Sealants for Your Child
Children can get dental sealants as soon as their first molars appear, which usually happens around age 6, according to the ADA. The procedure is simple and painless. After preparing the molars with an acidic gel, your child's dentist will paint on a sealant. They will then quickly harden the sealant with a blue light. Once the sealant has been applied, it can last for as long as several years. When your child's sealant wears off, it can be reapplied.
While some dental sealants may contain bisphenol A, rest assured that the amount released is minimal and far below dangerous levels. If your child's dentist recommends dental sealants, you can feel confident that this treatment is both safe and effective.