The findings of a recent study suggest that a common tooth enamel abnormality in children may be the result of exposure to the industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Although BPA’s use in consumer goods has decreased since it has been linked to a number of health problems, additional ongoing research indicates the chemicals used to replace BPA may not be any better.
BPA and Teeth Enamel
Molar-incisor hypomineralization (MIH) is a tooth enamel abnormality thought to affect nearly 20 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 9. MIH causes white or brown spots on a child’s permanent molars and incisors, and it can make the teeth sensitive to heat and cold, cause discomfort, and contribute to premature enamel wear that leaves teeth vulnerable to cavities.
The cause of MIH is not entirely understood, although it has long been thought to have an environmental origin. The findings of a recent study conducted by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, and presented at the 97th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, suggest that MHI may result from early exposure to BPA.
In the first portion of the study, scientists gave rats low doses of BPA, comparable to typical human exposure through plastic food packaging and household product containers. They found that BPA-dosed rats developed enamel defects similar to MIH in children. Researchers then cultured and examined certain cells that are present only during the formation of tooth enamel; BPA affected the development of these dental cells as well as the synthesis of tooth enamel.
BPA Substitutes May Not be Better
After years of use in plastic and resin products, manufacturers cut back on BPA in household goods after routine exposure to the chemical was found to alter hormone levels and was linked to adverse health effects, particularly in children.
While many products today carry labels that announce they are “BPA free,” a new study cited by the Time article “Why ‘BPA-Free’ May be Meaningless” indicates the chemicals used to replace BPA may be just as bad. In fact, the research suggests the two primary replacement substances—bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF)—may have more in common with BPA than their names.
Research into the health effects of BPF and BPS found that the compounds are structurally similar to BPA and seem to have similarly disruptive effects on hormones. There is currently less scientific literature probing BPS and BPF than BPA, and it is not yet known if BPS and BPF cause adverse, long-term effects.
As for your teeth, it’s always a good idea to consult with your dentist if you notice changes in color, premature enamel wear, or sudden discomfort or increased sensitivity.
Austin, Texas, dentist Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients maintain beautiful, healthy smiles for life. If you’re seeking an experienced, compassionate cosmetic dentist in the greater Austin area, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273 to schedule your personal consultation.