Eco-Friendly Dentistry, Q & A with Dr. Namrata Patel

Dr. Namrata (Nammy) Patel is a leader in a movement to bring environmental sanity and wellbeing into the dental world. Her mission is to make going to the dentist as relaxing as a day at the spa. At her Green Dentistry office in San Francisco’s Union Square, patients relax on a heated massage table or listen to peaceful music on Bose headphones while having their dental needs met by Dr. Nammy and her compassionate staff.

At our recent CEH 16th Anniversary Gala, Dr. Nammy spoke of her long-time support for our environmental health work. “I started working with CEH when it was really tiny, but it’s been great to see the amount of success, change and accomplishment they’ve achieved. With CEH, it’s all about results.”

CEH staff recently brought some of our questions about dentistry and toxics to Dr. Nammy, and she was gracious to respond for our readers.

1.) Some of us have wondered about the bonding agents used in dental sealants. There has been concern about bisphenol A (BPA) that is used in some sealants, and I believe there are now sealants without BPA – but we’re wondering what they’ve used to replace it. Do you have any comments on BPA in dental products?  

BPA can be released when there is grinding from composite fillings. Personally, I don’t want it in my mouth because it is linked to cancer. Oral cancer is on the rise by 20% per year. Patients can check with their dentist to see whether fillings contain BPA. GC Gradia is one BPA-free filling that is available. The other bonding agent that can be used is acetone, or any other alcohol.

2.) Does a breastfeeding mother who undergoes mercury filling removal have to “pump and dump” her breast milk, to avoid exposing the baby to mercury? If so, for how long?

Yes, a breast-feeding mother has to pump and dump the first batch produced after the procedure.  The first dump is for removal of anesthetic. She is okay after that to continue breastfeeding mainly because mercury is most toxic when it is being placed or removed.  Mercury is not excreted in breastmilk, but rather urine, feces and blood.

2.) A 2010 WSJ article suggested that early orthodontia is ineffective. What is your take on early orthodontia?  I’m especially curious given that early orthodontia means more exposure (in young children) to X-rays.

Early orthodontics can be very effective as it helps prevent surgery in the future, especially in the case of palatal expansions. They are great for babies as early as 2 years old. It saves kids years of orthodontics down the road.  The key is preventative orthodontia vs. regular orthodontia.  The underlying thought is to simply get an orthodontic evaluation early on, not necessarily treatment.

5.)  A recent article revealed a team working on creating nanotech-based dental fillings to kill residual bacteria and re-mineralize the tooth. There’s been much concern about the risks of nanotech, especially nano silver, which is included in these fillings for its anti-bacterial properties. What are your thoughts on this?

The biggest concern is that nano composite means a small filling material and the way it works is it creates a better fit between the tooth and the filling.  Smaller particles also allow greater polishability. From a dentistry standpoint it can help fillings last longer; but there are also other factors that contribute to longevity like oral hygiene and grinding. However it does not remineralize the tooth.