This chemical in drinking water linked to tooth decay

In a new study, researchers found that higher concentrations of a certain chemical in drinking water are linked to cavities.

The research was conducted by a team at West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

Manufactured chemical groups called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are universal as a result of extensive manufacturing and use.

Although manufacturers no longer use PFAS to make nonstick cookware, carpet, cardboard, and other products, they persist in the environment.

Scientists have linked them to a range of health problems—from heart disease to high cholesterol—but the team is exploring how they affect dental health.

They examined whether higher concentrations of PFAS were linked to greater tooth decay in children.

One of them—perfluorodecanoic acid—was linked to dental cavities.

The team examined 629 children who were 3 to 11 years old. Samples of the children’s blood were analyzed in 2013 and 2014.

Their tooth decay and other factors—such as their race, their BMI and how often they brushed their teeth—were assessed.

The team found that among the seven PFAS they analyzed, perfluorodecanoic acid was the one that linked to higher levels of tooth decay.

The team says due to the strong chemical bonds of PFAS, it is difficult for them to breakdown, which makes them more likely to be persistent within the environment, especially in drinking water systems.

A majority of people may not be aware that they are using water and other products that contain PFAS.

Perfluorodecanoic acid, in particular, has a long molecular structure and strong chemical bonds; therefore, it remains in the environment longer.

As a result, it is more likely to have negative health consequences such as dental caries.

The team says perfluorodecanoic acid may disrupt the healthy development of enamel, which is what makes teeth hard. That disruption can leave teeth susceptible to decay.

However, when it comes to cavities, the scientists haven’t parsed perfluorodecanoic acid’s mechanism of action yet. The topic warrants further investigation.

One good news is that the study reaffirmed the importance of dental hygiene and checkups.

Children who brushed once a day or less frequently had significantly higher tooth decay than those who brushed at least twice daily.

Likewise, children who had not been to the dentist within the previous year were twice as likely to have higher rates of tooth decay than kids who hadn’t.

So, even though parents cannot control what is in their children’s drinking water, they can still protect their children’s teeth by fostering thorough, regular brushing and scheduling dental exams.

The lead author of the study is R. Constance Wiener.

The study is published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry.

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