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Anaesthetics may harm your child’s teeth: study

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Parents, take note! Use of local anaesthetic in dental surgery may affect tooth cell growth and the development of your child’s teeth, a new study has found for the first time.

The study comes at a time when more children than ever before are subjected to dental surgery – and local anaesthetic – because of tooth decay or the other orthodontic conditions, researchers said.

Using pig teeth and human young permanent tooth pulp cells, the research has identified that local anaesthetics commonly used in clinics can affect the proliferation of tooth cells.

It is the first time that evidence has been found to suggest that local anaesthetic could affect tooth cell growth and potentially impact upon tooth development.

According to the researchers, dental treatment involves more frequent use of local anaesthetic than any other clinical area.

Although the maximum dosage of various local anaesthetics is established, their side effects on dental tissue have until now not been fully investigated.

The study found that the longer duration of exposure to high concentrations of local anaesthetic was most harmful because it interferes with the function of mitochondria, the ‘batteries’ of the cell, and induce a cell death mechanism named “autophagy”.

The research team investigated the majority kind of local anaesthetics currently used in dental clinics in the UK, Switzerland and China.

While the study has identified a potential harmful effect of local anaesthetic on developing teeth, the research team is keen to emphasise that further clinical studies are required before there is enough data to change clinical guidelines, and that parents should not be alarmed or withdraw their children from treatment if they need it.

“Our study has shown for the first time the evidence that local anaesthetic may affect the development of children’s teeth in cellular and molecular levels,” said Bing Hu, associate professor at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, who led the study.

“We accept that we need to carry out further clinical studies and we do not wish for our findings to alarm parents unnecessarily, but we do expect, in time, to improve clinical guidelines through our research to minimise the dosage of local anaesthetic drugs,” Hu said.

“Our findings emphasise the need for parents to help their children to avoid the need for dental surgery, such as tooth extractions, in the first place by paying attention to diet and good oral hygiene, and regular visits to the dentist,” Hu said.

The study was published in the journal Cell Death Discovery.