Dental fillings provide a major iatrogenic exposure to xenobiotic compounds due to the high prevalence of surface restorations in developed countries. Experimental data suggest that both amalgams, which contain mercury, and resin-based dental materials cause an impairment of the cellular pro- and anti-oxidant redox balance. The aim of this study was to assess the potential genotoxicity of dental restorative compounds in peripheral blood lymphocytes of young exposed subjects compared with controls. The study examined, by use of the comet assay, 68 carefully selected subjects taking into account the major known confounding factors. In the 44 exposed subjects, the mean numbers of restored surfaces was 3.0 and 3.8 in males and females, respectively. Tail length, percentage of DNA in the tail, tail moment or Olive tail moment were twofold higher in the exposed group than in unexposed controls, with significant differences. No significant difference was observed between amalgam and composite fillings. Furthermore, as shown by multivariate analysis, the association between dental fillings and DNA damage was enhanced by the number of fillings and by the exposure time. Among the lifestyle variables, a moderate physical activity showed a protective effect, being inversely correlated to the DNA damage parameters evaluated. On the whole, the use of DNA-migration allowed us to detect for the first time the potential adverse impact on human health of both kinds of dental filling constituents, the amalgams and the methacrylates. The main mechanism underlying the genotoxicity of dental restorative materials of various nature may be ascribed to the ability of both amalgams and methacrylates to trigger the generation of cellular reactive oxygen species, able to cause oxidative DNA lesions.
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