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Chinese scientists develop new tooth-repairing gel

Chinese scientists have developed a new tooth-repairing gel, which could spell the end of fillings.

Researchers at the Zhejiang School of Medicine have created a unique gel formula, which is capable of regenerating the tooth enamel. The team’s innovative liquid solution contains calcium and phosphate ions, which are mixed into an alcohol-based solution with an organic compound known as trimethylamine. The formula produced minute clusters of calcium phosphate, which measured 1.5nm in diameter. This substance is the main component of enamel. 

When applied to the tooth surface, the researchers found that their gel created a new layer of enamel. In just 48 hours, the gel had produced an enamel coating, which was approximately 3 micrometres in thickness. 

Dr Zhaoming Lee, co-author of the study, explained that the newly-produced enamel has the same properties as natural enamel tissue, and could therefore help to promote enamel growth and tooth repair without the need for fillings. The team is hoping to start trials involving human participants within the next two years. 

The discovery is exciting because natural enamel tissue is not capable of regeneration, and as such, we rely on fillings and other restorations to strengthen the teeth, fill cavities and repair damage. With this gel, it may be possible to restore the teeth without using additional materials, which will enhance patient satisfaction, improve the longevity of results, and save money.

Having discussed the development of the new gel with dental professionals, Dr Lee, study leader, Professor Tang Ruikang, and the rest of the team are confident that this is a solution that can make a real difference within the world of dentistry, and it could pave the way for a new way of permanently protecting and restoring the teeth. Dr Sherif Elsharkawy, a prosthodontic expert from King’s College London, described the breakthrough as “very exciting.”

The findings of the study have been published in the Science Advances journal.

Cancer charity calls for HPV vaccine to be made available for older boys

A leading cancer charity has called for the HPV vaccine to be made available for older boys and young men. 

The Teenage Cancer Trust believes that the injection should be available for older teenagers and young men, as well as 11-13 year-olds. The HPV vaccine will now be provided for teenage boys, having only been given to girls for the last 11 years. Introduced in 2008 to try and reduce cervical cancer rates, the vaccine has been provided routinely for girls aged 11-13, with extremely positive results. Campaigners believed that the vaccine should be offered to boys too on the basis that HPV strains are linked to other types of cancer, many of which affect males. 

The government has now agreed to expand the school immunisation programme to include boys aged 11-13, but the Teenage Cancer Trust believes that the scheme should be extended further to include older boys and young men. The vaccine is currently available for men and teenagers over the age of 13, but at a cost of £150. 

Representatives from the charity stated that research had indicated that 76% of older boys and young men would want the immunisation if it was available for free. Only a third would be willing to pay a fee. 

TCT chief executive, Kate Collins, suggested that the vaccine should be provided to anyone who wants it up to the age of 25. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed that boys in Year 8 will be entitled to free vaccination from the start of the school year and suggested that extending the scheme to cover older boys would have a “limited benefit” due to the herd immunity already established as a result of over 10 years of immunisation for girls. The theory is that immunising girls will help to reduce the risk of cancers linked to HPV in the future, and rates will continue to drop once the vaccination programme for younger boys launches.

Study shows athletes have poor dental health, despite good oral hygiene habits

New research has shown that athletes have poor dental health, despite the fact that many have good oral hygiene habits.

A study conducted by scientists at UCL revealed that elite sportspeople tend to have poor dental health, even though they devote more time to looking after their teeth. Research teams interviewed a group of 352 athletes, including some who were gearing up for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They found that the majority were more likely to brush their teeth twice a day and floss than the average person, but that standards of oral health were generally lower.

Previous studies have highlighted the prevalence of dental problems among footballers and athletes, and researchers have suggested that elite performers have to work harder to achieve better dental health. In the UK, around half of adult athletes have signs of decay, compared to a third of non-athletes within the same age groups. 

The most recent study, which has been published in the British Dental Journal, aimed to determine why it was more difficult for athletes to maintain good oral health. During the trial, researchers from UCL interviewed performers from 11 sports, including rowing, sailing, cycling, swimming, rugby, football, athletics, and hockey. They found that 94% brushed twice-daily, which was significantly higher than the general public (75%), and 44% flossed daily, which was also higher than the public at 21%. 

While diets among athletes were generally much healthier than the average adult, there were issues, most notably the use of sports and energy drinks, energy gels, and bars that contain a lot of sugar. 

Dr Julie Gallagher, a member of the research team, explained that athletes tend to opt for drinks and snacks that provide a quick energy boost, and the sugar content in these products contributes to an elevated risk of decay and enamel erosion. Of those surveyed, almost 90% admitted to consuming energy drinks.

Adult braces are more popular than ever before

In years gone by, braces were associated with teenagers and youngsters battling orthodontic imperfections, but today, the story is very different. While braces remain a very effective treatment for children with issues that affect tooth alignment, more and more adults are opting to have orthodontic treatment.

According to the British Orthodontic Society, three quarters of members have experienced an increase in the demand for adult orthodontics, with many practices deciding to invest in state of the art equipment to provide their clients with the latest treatments on the market. Barclays Bank has almost doubled the amount of money lent to dentists in the last two years.

Experts believe that the soaring popularity of adult braces is due to a combination of factors, including a positive shift in attitude towards adult treatment, the development and availability of new, discreet, rapid treatments, and the rise of the selfie and social media. The images that we tend to see of smiles in the media and social feeds depict flawless teeth, and dentists are seeing more patients who come in with an idea of what they want their smile to look like based on celebrity looks and photographs from social platforms or magazines. Celebrity endorsements have also made braces a bit cooler than they used to be, with famous faces like Fearne Cotton and Miley Cyrus among those to take the plunge and undergo treatment during their adult years.

Lucy Setter was 27 when she decided to have braces. Having had two children, Lucy decided that she wanted to focus on herself a bit more. She had been to see an orthodontist at the age of 14, but was scared to have braces and decided against treatment. She then went for a consultation at the age of 19, but again put treatment off, as braces are only available free of charge on the NHS for children. Later in life, Lucy wanted to feel more confident, and she found a dentist that offered a payment plan. Now, having had braces and two more children, Lucy said she finally feels confident when she smiles, and this has filtered into every aspect of her life.

Scientists discover new stem cells, which could help to repair and regenerate teeth

Scientists at Plymouth University have made an exciting discovery, which could make regenerating the teeth a possibility in the future. 

A team of researchers from the university has discovered a new group of stem cells and the gene, which activates it. This group is responsible for the formation of skeletal and tooth tissue, most notably dentin. Dentin is the hard tissue that protects the nerves, the blood vessels and the pulp tissue, and it is found beneath the enamel surface. At the moment, when a tooth is damaged, it can only be restored, usually by means of a crown or a filling. With this new stem cell research, it could be possible to regenerate damaged tissue and effectively grow new teeth. 

Lead researcher, Dr Bing Hu, said that the importance and value of stem cells is well-documented, but to fully understand the capabilities of stem cells, it’s crucial to learn how they work. The group discovered new stem cells, as well as the gene that activates them, known as Dlkl. By finding the stem cells and the gene, and investigating how Dlkl is involved in stem cell regeneration, the team has made major strides to understand stem cell regeneration. The research can now form a base for further exploration and to determine how to develop lab-based techniques for human use. 

Co-author of the study, Prof Christopher Tredwin, head of the Peninsula Dental School at Plymouth University, said that the research will hopefully provide dental patients with more effective, affordable solutions for tooth problems and injuries in the future. 

Dental injuries and diseases are commonplace in the UK, with 170 extraction procedures carried out on under 18’s every day.

The findings have been published in the Nature Communications journal. 

The British Dental Association warns against online dentistry, as US firm launches £1,500 invisible braces you can order on the web

The British Dental Association has warned against online dentistry, as a US firm launches £1,500 invisible braces you can order on the Internet. 

The SmileDirectClub is offering consumers the chance to benefit from cheaper braces by ordering online. The product, which retails at £1,500 is a significantly less expensive alternative to professional systems offered by dentists, including Invisalign. Invisalign treatment usually costs in the region of £3,000 to £5,000. As well as offering discounted prices, the company is also giving patients the chance to spread payments over the course of a 12-month period. 

The SmileDirectClub claims that customers can benefit from personalised, 3D printed braces and whitening treatment, as well as access to a British dentist online. The process would involve the individual visiting a high street pharmacy to undergo a 3D scan of the mouth. The braces would then be manufactured based on the mould. 

The US company is undoubtedly trying to capitalise on the popularity of a perfect smile, and this venture follows in the footsteps of cheaper contact lenses and glasses sold by cut-price online opticians. Although it may seem great on the surface, experts from the British Dental Association have reservations.

Vice chair of the BDA, Eddie Crouch, urged patients to think very carefully about pursuing online treatment. Orthodontics is a complex field of dentistry, and the best way to go about achieving a beautiful, straight smile is to see a trained orthodontist, or a dentist with advanced training in orthodontics, for a consultation. This will be followed by tailored treatment planning and close monitoring throughout the treatment stage. 

The US company already provides products for patients in the US, Australia and Canada, and it has plans to launch stores in cities across the UK, having teamed up with Well Pharmacy.

Could supervised brushing at school help to stem the tide of decay?

Public Health England figures suggest that dentists are removing around 1,000 teeth per month from children under the age of 6, despite the fact that almost all cases of decay are preventable. With dental issues costing the NHS millions of pounds, and children missing 60,000 school days every year as a result of decay, it has been suggested that supervised brushing in schools could help to stem the rising tide of decay. 

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is launching a consultation on a number of measures designed to reduce rates of decay, including supervised brushing schemes in schools. Health experts are worried that a large proportion of children aren’t brushing their teeth on a daily basis, and introducing brushing programmes could help to ensure that young children brush at least once a day. 

Poor oral hygiene is a significant factor in high rates of decay, but public dental health experts are also eager to improve eating habits, reduce sugar consumption and encourage parents to take children to the dentist every 6 months. 

The news of brushing schemes has been welcomed by dentists, including the chair of the British Dental Association’s principal executive committee, Mick Armstrong, but it has been criticised by teaching unions. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, questioned whether it was the duty of teachers to ensure that their pupils brushed their teeth. 

Senior lecturer in dental public health at the University of Birmingham, Dr John Morris, said that the impact of poor dental health in childhood shouldn’t be underestimated. Dental troubles contribute to pain and a higher risk of infection, but they can also affect self-confidence and socialisation. 

Tooth extraction is currently the most common reason children are admitted to hospital in the UK.

Dental charity welcomes plans to expand HPV vaccine programme to protect boys

The Oral Health Foundation has welcomed plans to expand the HPV vaccine programme to protect boys, as well as girls.

Currently, 12 and 13-year-old girls are offered the immunisation as part of a scheme to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Now, Public Health England has confirmed that the programme will be rolled out to include teenage boys in a bid to lower the number of cancer cases linked to the virus.

HPV (human papilloma virus) is a very common virus, which usually doesn’t cause any problems. However, there are certain strains that increase the risk of some types of cancer.

The vaccination has been incredibly effective in lowering the risk of cervical cancer, and campaigners believed that boys should be vaccinated to protect them against other forms of cancer. Oral cancer, for example, is linked to HPV exposure, and the number of cases in the UK has more than doubled in the last 10-15 years.

HPV vaccination started in 2008 and Public Health England has confirmed that boys in year 8 will be offered the injection from September 2019. It is estimated that around 5% of cancer cases are linked to the HPV, and in the UK, experts believe that extending the vaccination programme could prevent up to 2,000 cases in men each year.

Types of cancer that may be associated with HPV in men include cancer of the penis and anus and head and neck cancer.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, welcomed the news and urged all parents of boys and girls who are eligible for the vaccine to take advantage of the opportunity to have the injection. The programme has already enjoyed incredible results among girls and young women, and expanding the scheme could save many more lives.

Number of UK smokers falls by 1.8m in seven years

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The number of smokers in England has fallen by 1.8 million in the last seven years, new figures confirm.

The most recent statistics suggest that the number of smokers has fallen from 7.7 million in 2011 to 5.9 million in 2018/2019. This equates to around 1 in 7 adults.

England has a smaller proportion of smokers than all the other UK nations, but numbers have also tumbled in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, there are more than 250,000 fewer smokers, and the number has dropped from 518,000 to 383,000 in Wales.

In Northern Ireland, there has been a decrease of 36,000 smokers.
In recent years, the government and health bodies have introduced a raft of measures, which have been backed by GP and dental authorities and associations, designed to discourage people from smoking, including plain packaging, health warnings and hiding cigarettes behind shutters in stores, rather than displaying them at the tills.

The decline in smoking has undoubtedly contributed to an increase in the popularity of vaping, with the proportion of people who use e-cigarettes increasing by 70% in the last four years.

Public Health England chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said that smoking in England is in “terminal decline” and stated that the figures suggest that a smoke-free future is a real possibility. Figures are falling, and more and more people are opting to quit or even better, not to start smoking in the first place.

Figures suggest that smoking is directly linked to 1.2 million deaths per year in England. Research suggests that smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack and up to 30 times more likely to suffer from lung cancer than non-smokers.

Smoking is most prevalent in adults living in Hull, Lincoln, Burnley, Mansfield and Rugby, while the proportion of non-smokers is highest in Rushcliffe, Richmond, Oadby and Wigston, Epsom and Ewell and Selby.

New research shows that electric toothbrushes are better than manual brushes

New research has shown that using an electric toothbrush is better for your dental health than employing a manual brush.

Researchers found that using an electric toothbrush contributes to healthier gums, a reduced risk of tooth decay and a higher probability of keeping the natural teeth for longer. The new study, which has been labelled ‘ground-breaking’ due to the fact that it is the largest study of its kind, analysed data collected over a period of 11 years. The findings, which have been published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, revealed that using an electric toothbrush can reduce the risk of gum recession by 22% and decay by 18%.

The latest oral health survey carried out by the Oral Health Foundation suggests that less than half of British adults use an electric toothbrush, with many citing cost as a reason for sticking with a manual brush. Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the foundation, believes that buying an electric brush represents an excellent investment in improved oral health, especially as the price of brushes has fallen as a result of technological advances. Electric toothbrushes are now available for as little as £10, and they last a lot longer than manual brushes.

Just 49% of adults use an electric toothbrush. Two-thirds of those who have an electric toothbrush made the switch to enjoy oral health benefits. More than a third chose to buy a brush after receiving advice from their dentist and 13% of people were given an electric brush as a gift.

Dr Carter suggested that the latest study builds on evidence showcased by previous projects and encouraged dental patients to ensure they take good care of their teeth and gums. Even if you don’t have an electric toothbrush, you can achieve a deep clean, which will reduce the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

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