The thought that dentistry could be toxic never really entered my mind until about two weeks ago when I read something that mentioned BPAs in dental sealants. A few days later, Brynn went to the dentist for a cleaning and what did the dentist tell me she needs? Sealants. On all four of her permanent molars. "Okay. Can I get a list of the ingredients in those sealants?" I asked. Sure, they had no problem getting me a list of ingredients. First they would have to call the sales rep, though, and she had already left her office for the day. "We'll get back to you," they told me kindly.
Within a few days, I got a call from the dentist's office. They told me the brand of sealant that they use and let me know that the sealants were only 30% BisGMA (compared to 94% BisGMA, which is apparently typical). BPA is used to synthesize BisGMA and the lower percentage of BisGMA means that the sealants, when properly cured, will release fewer BPAs over the life of the sealants. It sounds like the sealants used by our dentist are the most ecological/biocompatible and least-toxic of the sealant options. I trust and appreciate and genuinely like my dentist. He made my life immeasurably better by fixing my TMJ. He is warm and kind and loving and smart and I truly think he is an excellent dentist. Even so, I am still not comfortable letting him put sealants in Brynn's mouth. The most important thing my mother has taught me about parenting is to always trust my gut. And my gut was saying no.
Why am I uncomfortable allowing my daughter to have sealants in her mouth? Why do BPAs scare me?
I am absolutely NOT an expert on this. I am just a mom who is trying to keep my kids safe. Having said that, here is what I know: exposure to low levels of BPAs can cause a variety of fertility problems along with other hormone-related problems. I am not interested in introducing something to my daughters' bodies which at some point might cause them to be infertile or, worse yet, sick.
So I did some Googling and found out about a quacky, fringey kind of dentristy called Biodentistry. Or sometimes Ecological Dentistry or Environmental Dentistry. It is relatively new and they're not a cohesive bunch yet. We'll go with the label Biodentistry. I found my local biodentist and set up an appointment to talk with him. I wish I had brought a notepad. Or a tape recorder. It was quite a lesson.
These biodentists, they're a crazy bunch. They don't believe in putting mercury in peoples' mouths. Imagine that! So those amalgam fillings in your mouth? The ones made out of silver and mercury? Yeah, a biodentist would never use those because the mercury inevitably leaches out and mercury is not something you want in your body. They also don't believe in letting mercury/silver amalgam fillings wash down the drain and into our water supply. The dentist I talked to filters his drain water to catch the fillings he removes and then sends them to a recycler who separates the mercury from the silver and re-uses the purified silver but responsibly disposes of the mercury. No mercury going back into the environment. At that point I was hooked.
We talked about root canals and why he doesn't do them (the tooth becomes like a petri dish of bacteria festering in the patient's mouth, wreaking havoc on the immune system) and we talked about alternatives to root canals...not that I ever plan on having that problem, of course. We talked about the body as a system and the part that teeth and oral health play in that system. I learned about the anatomy of a tooth and how and where a tooth can heal itself, versus where it cannot. I learned about non-pharmaceutical approaches to encouraging healing in a tooth. I began to see dentistry from a whole new perspective.
Eventually, we talked about sealants, my problem at hand. This biodentist doesn't do sealants, but he does believe Brynn probably needs something like sealants (he hasn't seen her mouth yet). As an alternative to sealants, he fills that unreachable-by-toothbrush-bristle crevice in the bottom of the molar with composite filling, much like he would fill a cavity. I asked why other dentists use sealants instead of filling the crevice with composite, and he told me that dental assistants can apply sealants, but composite requires the dentist. At least in part, it comes down to the best use of the dentist's time.
Most brands of composite filling still contains BPAs but composite material is more stable than sealant material, he said, and would release fewer BPAs over time. "Is this worth the risk of BPA exposure?" I asked him. Because I really think any BPA exposure is too much, especially considering that my children are likely exposed to BPAs in their environment every day, no matter how much I try to control it. He told me that when my child is ninety years old, he still wants her to have her own teeth. Those same teeth that are in her mouth right now. The best option we have for her to keep those teeth for another eighty three years is to fill those deep crevices with composite material. Right now, composite is the safest option out there.
Am I still slightly uncomfortable? Yes. Because I don't know what else is in composite material that will prove to be dangerous in the coming years. But my gut isn't screaming at me anymore. Next week Brynn will go in for a comprehensive exam and we will see where that leads. At this point, all I am sure of is that there will be no plastic sealants on her teeth.
Find out more about the biological dentist I visited here. For more info on biological dentistry, check here, here, or here.