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Archives for February, 2011

Court ruling could see fluoride spread

The recent High Court ruling in the UK stating that the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SCSHA) had not acted illegally when deciding to fluoridate the water supply in the surrounding region could open the floodgates for other regions to make their move towards improving oral health.

Health authorities in Manchester have been considering a similar move, but were concerned that a ruling against the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SCSHA) would make their fluoridation plans illegal.

Now, the British Dental Association is hopeful that more areas in the UK will add fluoride to the drinking water, as an effective weapon against tooth decay.

On Friday Mr Justice Holman gave a decision in favour of the health authority, and against local resident Geraldine Milner, saying that “our democratic Parliament decided long ago that water can, in certain circumstances, be fluoridated”.

He added: “This SHA have not acted unlawfully and no court can interfere with their decision.”

Prof Damien Walmsley, the BDA’s scientific adviser, said: “It is likely to encourage consultation on similar schemes in other parts of the country where fluoride could help address the poor dental health of the population.”

He added: “A recent European summary of the latest scientific evidence reiterated the view that water fluoridation is a safe and effective method of reducing oral health inequalities.”

Currently only 10% of the UK population has fluoride in its water supply; around 5.5 million people across the country, including most of Birmingham and parts of Newcastle.

The last previous legal battle over fluoride was in 1998 when North Tyneside health authority was unsuccessful in its High Court attempt to force Northumbrian Water to expand its fluoridation programme to the rest of the area.

Health authorities that are backing the use of fluoride can now go ahead with the process, safe in the knowledge that the law will back them.

Prof Walmsley added; “This is an important decision. Other authorities are all prepared to go forward but have been waiting to see how this one turns out.”

Energy drinks can damage the health of children

A new study has found that popular energy drinks, high in caffeine and sugar, can have very serious implications for the health of young people, especially those who suffer from diabetes, heart problems or seizures.

The research team from the University of Miami, led by Dr Steven E. Lipshultz, professor and chair of pediatrics, associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School, found that children and young people accounted for more than half the market in these energy drinks, despite their being little understanding of how the ingredients could damage their oral and general health.

Most of these beverages contains strong stimulants such as caffeine, taurine and guarana – often in large quantities – yet no safe level for children has ever been established in relation to these ingredients.

Lipshultz says that until further research is carried out into the effects of these energy drinks on the health of young people, there should be a restriction on their sale, as there is in some European countries.

“We wanted to raise awareness about the risks. Our systematic review suggests that these drinks have no benefit and should not be a part of the diet of children and teens,” he said.

These drinks have no health benefits for young people at all, despite over half of college students saying they drink them on a regular basis, to counter insufficient sleep and to give themselves more energy.

Most worrying, the stimulants can cause heart palpitations in healthy children and potentially worse in young people who already have health conditions, while the excess sugar and calories contributes towards childhood obesity and poor oral health.

Dental charity supports orphanages in Cambodia

The charity Dentaid is working hard, alongside health practitioners in Cambodia, to provide healthcare for children living in the country’s orphanages.

Not only has Dentaid provided equipment to dental clinics and colleges in Phnom Penh, the capital city, but the charity recently set up its Smiles and Hopes campaign, to provide dental care in orphanages, to children who would not normally receive this kind of treatment.

There are more than 100 orphanages in the city, and though life is tough in these institutions, children receive much more care than they would living on the streets. With the help of Dentaid, they can now also expect improved medical and dental care.

Dentaid’s Head of Fundraising, Diane Platt, recently visited Phnom Penh with a group of volunteers to see for herself how vital their funding has been for the city’s orphanages.

“The orphanages become the children’s home in the truest sense. They are warm and homely places where groups of five or six children live in small houses with a housemother. They attend school, not an option for the vast majority of Cambodian children who will be working from the age of five or six to contribute to the family’s income,” she said.

Diane added; “Once in the orphanage they have regular meals, clean clothes, medical care and, thanks to Dentaid’s Smiles and Hopes campaign, they now have dental care.”

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of tooth decay in the world, with the standard 5-year-old having ten decayed teeth, and teenagers often needing to have adult teeth taken out because of extreme decay.

Dentaid’s support can help the children living in orphanages, but not those who are living in poverty with their families, who have little or no access to dental clinics as they are too expensive.

Dentist shortage still affecting parts of Yorkshire

Waiting lists for NHS dentists in some North Yorkshire towns are still unacceptably high, with local health bosses blaming a lack of suitable candidates wanting to work in the area.

Over 9,000 people are still waiting to see an NHS dentist in York and Selby, though rural areas are less affected, with the lists at zero in some parts of the county, and only 465 people on the list in Harrogate.

NHS North Yorkshire and York are putting out tenders for new dentists to work in the region, but have been disappointed by some of the previous applicants.

Lorraine Naylor, assistant director of strategy for NHS North Yorkshire and York, said: “Unfortunately we didn’t have anyone who was suitable to win a tender in York and Selby; however, the good news is that they’re going out to tender again.”

Ms Naylor insisted that part of the problem with the waiting lists system was that people were failing to inform the health authority if and when they found a place with an alternative dental clinic, meaning the figures released were probably inaccurately high.

She reassured members of the public that both York and Selby have clinics that will see any patients who require emergency dental treatment.

John Renshaw of the British Dental Association agreed that problems with the lists were artificially inflating the numbers and called on the health authority to deal with any discrepancies.

He said; “There is clearly still a residual problem in York, and in Selby. What is causing the trouble here is a mismatch between the provision and a waiting list and I think the PCT [North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust] should get this waiting list sorted out, it’s not being handled as well as it should be.”

Study finds another link between oral and general health

There have been many studies carried out over the years that have linked oral health with general health, specifically in relation to heart problems, diabetes and pregnancy.

Now a new study carried out in Sweden has found what appears to be the first established link between poor oral health and breast cancer.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden say their research has shown that women are eleven times more prone to suffering from breast cancer if they have poor oral health; specifically if they have absent teeth or gum disease.

Over 3,000 women were involved in the study, which took detailed medical histories on their general and oral health, as well as monitoring which had already suffered from breast cancer and which went on to develop the disease during the research. Forty one of the subjects had breast cancer and many also had oral health problems, leading to researchers coming up with their interesting conclusion.

The chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter has welcomed the research, but says more investigation is needed as this is the first study that has come up with such a link.

Dr Carter said: ‘If future studies can also testify to the link between missing teeth and breast cancer, more has to be done to raise public awareness on the issue. The British Dental Health Foundation has a history of campaigning for better oral health, and the findings presented in the study indicate another clear link between your general and oral health.’

Mouthwash improves health of pregnant women

A new study has found that alcohol-free, anti-bacterial mouthwash not only improves the oral health of pregnant women, but can also prevent pre-term births.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania involved 200 women in the early stages of pregnancy who also had gum disease. Some of the subjects received nor treatment, while others were given the alcohol free mouthwash to help treat the condition.

The women using the mouthwash reduced their risk of giving birth early significantly; only 6.1% of the women in that group had pre-term births, compared to 21.9% of those who had no treatment for their gum disease.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, a professor of periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania stated, “Preterm birth is the major cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity worldwide and still difficult to predict and prevent. So, when we found that something as simple as mouthwash could change the outcomes, we were very excited.”

Pregnant women are thought to be more likely to suffer from gum infections because of hormonal changes in the body. The bacteria that causes gum disease can then get into the bloodstream, and it is this bacteria that experts think are responsible for triggering early births.

Dr. Anthony M. Iacopino of the Canadian Dental Association stated, “We’ve always had patients who were a little bit leery about going to the dentist when they are pregnant, although it is completely safe to have care provided during pregnancy.”

He added, “Using a mouth rinse is very cost effective and it is easy to do, anyone can do it. And if it is going to be effective, it is going to be a huge benefit for public health interventions.”

Calgary looking at alternatives to fluoride

Health officials in Calgary are beginning to explore alternative methods of protecting the population’s oral health, after the city council voted to remove fluoride from the water supply.

Dr. Richard Musto, the medical officer for the city’s zone at Alberta Health and Wellness, has already warned that it is likely to be those who live in the poorer areas of the city who will suffer the most, and has called for further investment into teaching resources and to provide more support to public dental clinics.

He also warns that the government may have to consider providing fluoride varnishes or rinses in schools where oral health is poor.

“Those (treatments) are very much more expensive because they involve individual, one on one care. One of the beauties of fluoridation in the water is that it was a much more cost efficient way of bringing the benefit for everybody,” he said.”Services that require attending at a clinic, or even at a school are going to be subject to all the issues around access.”

A local dentist, Dr. Kuen Chow, who also volunteers at a local dental clinic in a deprived area of Calgary, says that even with fluoridation, children in poorer areas of the city were struggling to maintain good oral health, and fears that it is these children who will be hit most by the council’s recent decision.

“That is the population that’s going to be affected the most. Unfortunately, I will see that within the next few years,” he said.

Other communities have resorted to fluoride pills when the substance has been removed from the water supply, but Dr Musto fears that this would not be very effective either.

“It’s not as effective as (water) fluoridation and there is a greater likelihood of causing fluorosis (an overdose of the mineral) because it’s a much higher concentration over a shorter period of time. They’re not a good alternative, but it’s one of the things we will look at,” he said.

First aid cupboard should contain dental kit

The National Institute of Health has urged members of the public to make sure their first aid kit is not just stocked with plasters and pain killers, but also the newly launched “Save-A-Tooth” product.

The ingredients of the kit aim to save any teeth that are knocked out accidentally so that they may be replanted in the mouth after any other injuries have been dealt with. Teeth usually start to die around an hour after being knocked out, but you can give them the best chance of survival by using the Save-A-Tooth kit, or following advice from dentists.

Over five million teeth are knocked out in the US every year, and the cost of one missing tooth is $3,000 or $30,000 over your whole lifetime.

Before Save-A-Tooth was launched, dentists would recommend storing a knocked out tooth in milk, and this is still a good idea in an emergency.

Dr Henry Rankow, Professor of Endodontics at Temple University said; “Milk is an secondary back up only to be used when a scientific, primary medical product is not available. Not having a Save-A-Tooth ahead of time is like not having an inhaler when you know your child has asthma.” He added; “Since losing a front permanent tooth is a lifelong, dental catastrophe, if parents don’t have a Save-A-Tooth ahead of time, their children may be at unnecessary risk.”

The Save-A-Tooth kit was invented by an experienced dentist and contains a special transportation capsule, to give the knocked out tooth the best chance of making it to a dental surgery in time to be replanted.

Dental professionals back the new product, saying it provides the security that ad hoc arrangements just don’t provide.

“So many mishaps can occur along the way from the accident to the actual replantation” says, Dr. Paul Krasner, Professor of Endodontics at Temple University, “that it’s like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick road. There may not be flying monkeys swooping down, but things happen – like glass containers breaking or saline spilling out or the teeth falling onto a dirty car floor.”

Mouth cancer to be debated at major conference

Plans are being made for the second North American/Global Dental Hygiene Research Conference, to be held in Maryland, at which mouth cancer will be one of the major topics of discussion.

Dentists, hygienist and researchers are not only invited to attend, but also to present any new discoveries they have made about the disease and any possible treatments or cures.

Associate director of the National Center for Dental Hygiene Research & Practice, Ann Spolarich, is happy that such a high profile conference is giving its attention to such a devastating disease.

She said: ‘During one of the plenary sessions at the conference, a leading international expert will explore the state of the science regarding oral cancer risk assessment, diagnosis and management, including a discussion about the reliability and validity of available in-office oral cancer screening tests.’

‘Further, results from a major practice-based research study that examines how dental hygienists can best provide tobacco cessation counselling will be presented. It is also quite likely that original research papers submitted for oral and poster presentations will address oral cancer and tobacco use.’

Chief executive of the International Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter has also lent his support to the decision to focus on oral cancers at the October event.

Dr Carter said: ‘Through Mouth Cancer Action Month we have campaigned in the UK for greater awareness of oral cancer for several years. The worldwide challenge is equally daunting and the conference will provide an excellent opportunity to increase awareness of the disease and hopefully stimulate debate on new approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.’

Potentially harmful teeth whitening products taken off sites

Consumer watchdog group Which? has succeeded in persuading a number of internet sites to remove potentially harmful teeth whitening products.

Amazon and ebay are among the websites who will now no longer sell any tooth whitening kits that contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide or chemicals that can release hydrogen peroxide. The move came after advice from the British Dental Association that “High doses of hydrogen peroxide can burn the lining of the mouth if it’s not protected.”

A spokesperson for eBay said “We took action immediately and have built filters and appropriate structures into our system to address this issue. We do not allow unlawful products to be listed on our sites. If anything is brought to our attention we will investigate it and bring appropriate action.”

Damaging products of this high strength are not a problem in the US, where teeth whitening technology is more advanced meaning that the public rarely has to resort to such potentially harmful brands. And it is always advised to leave such a procedure to the guidance of a qualified dentist.

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