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Vol. 72, No. 3
ISSN: 1488-2159
April 2006


Persuasive Evidence that Formocresol Use in Pediatric Dentistry Is Safe


• Alan R. Milnes, DDS, PhD, FRCD(C) •

A b s t r a c t

Concern has been expressed about the safety of formocresol use in pediatric dentistry. Formaldehyde, a primary component in formocresol, is a hazardous substance and is considered a probable human carcinogen by Health Canada. However, humans inhale and ingest formaldehyde daily and also produce this compound as part of normal cellular metabolism. The human body is physiologically equipped to handle this exposure through multiple pathways for oxidation of formaldehyde to formate and incorporation into biological macromolecules via tetrahydrofolate-dependent one-carbon biosynthetic pathways. Recent re-evaluation of earlier research that examined potential health risks associated with formaldehyde exposure has shown that the research was based on flawed assumptions, which resulted in erroneous conclusions. This review examines more recent research about formaldehyde metabolism, pharmacokinetics and carcinogenicity, the results of which indicate that formaldehyde is probably not a potent human carcinogen under conditions of low exposure. Extrapolation of these research results to pediatric dentistry suggests an inconsequential risk of carcinogenesis associated with formaldehyde use in pediatric pulp therapy. Areas for further investigation are suggested.


MeSH Key Words: carcinogens/toxicity; formaldehyde/chemistry; formocresols/toxicity; pulpotomy/methods
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