Children could be exposed to materials in their fillings both when the dentist applies them and over time, because the fillings wear down and release chemicals that children swallow, Columbia's Edelstein said.
"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," Edelstein said. Parents can also reduce exposure by making sure their dentist takes standard steps, like vacuuming around the tooth after applying the filling, he added.
"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," Edelstein said.
Parents can help prevent cavities by helping their children brush their teeth, giving them water instead of sugary drinks and visiting the dentist twice a year.
If your child does have a cavity, "talk to the dentist about where the cavity came from and how to prevent the next one," Edelstein said. "This study was clear that [higher] doses of fillings were associated with a health impact."
The study also made it explicitly clear that you should not have your amalgam fillings replaced with composites, which some dental practices will do, Edelstein said. "If you've got a sound filling, leave it in place."
While the study found an association between materials in fillings and behavior, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
You can learn more about preventing cavities in children by visiting the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
SOURCES: Nancy Maserejian, Sc.D., epidemiologist, New England Research Institutes, Watertown, Mass.; Burton Edelstein, D.D.S., M.P.H., professor, dental
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