OBJECTIVES: This study assessed occupational exposure in dental surgeries on the basis of the reported use of dental materials and techniques and applied waiting-time-to-pregnancy methodology to study fertility in relation to the occupational exposure.
METHODS: Data were collected retrospectively using a self-administered postal questionnaire addressing the occupational and reproductive history of the participants. The study groups consisted of 558 female dental surgeons and 450 high school teachers that had given birth in Norway to at least 1 living child. The present study comprised data from a total of 1408 pregnancies. The effects of practicing dentistry and of the given workplace exposure on fertility were analyzed with the discrete proportional hazard regression method.
RESULTS: Most of the female dental surgeons were using amalgam for fillings during the period they tried to conceive, and 1/3 placed more than 50 fillings a week. Tooth-colored fillings were in limited use. Prior to 75% of the pregnancies, the dental surgeons reported handling chloroform-based root canal sealers. Forty percent of the dental surgeons were daily exposed to disinfectants containing ethanol and benzene. No difference was found in fertility between the dental surgeons and the high school teachers. Exposure to mercury, chloroform, and benzene was not associated with decreased fertility, except for a possible effect of mercury in the last pregnancy of multiparous dental surgeons.
CONCLUSIONS: Occupational exposures had no clear adverse effects on fertility among the female dental surgeons studied.