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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.

New study suggests that HPV vaccines for boys may reduce head and neck cancer rates

A new study suggests that providing the HPV vaccine for boys may contribute to lower cancer rates.

The vaccine, which is currently only available for girls, protects against the HPV, or human papilloma virus. This virus is linked to several forms of cancer, including cervical cancer and head and neck cancer.

A two-year study, which was carried out by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University, concluded that vaccinating boys could cut the number of cancer cases linked to the HPV. Researchers analysed data taken from 235 patients based in Scotland. The virus was identified in around 60% of cases of head and neck cancer.

Co-author of the study, Dr Kevin Pollock, stated that head and neck cancer has become increasingly prevalent in the last 25 years, especially among the male population. In 1990, there were 100 cases diagnosed in Scotland, but the number had risen substantially to 350 by the end of 2015.

Dr Pollock claimed that the increase can, in part, be linked to drinking and smoking, but exposure to the HPV is also likely to play a part. HPV is more prevalent due to changes in sexual habits and behaviour, and providing a vaccine for boys, as well as girls, could help to bring the number of cases down in the future.

The Scottish Government has confirmed plans to extend the school vaccination programme to include boys, and these proposals have been welcomed by the research team behind this recent study, as well as dental organisations and public health bodies. The latest statistics show that 78% of cases in head and neck cancer are diagnosed in males.

The study has been welcomed by charities that support those affected by head and neck cancer, including the Throat Cancer Foundation.

Swedish researchers link undiagnosed diabetes to increased risk of gum disease

Researchers in Sweden have discovered a link between patients with undiagnosed diabetes and an increased risk of gum disease.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet found that people who have undetected diabetes are at risk of developing periodontal disease and heart disease. The findings of their study have been published in the Diabetes Care journal.

The study was undertaken by dentists and cardiologists, and involved analysing and evaluating data collected for a previous study. The data was harvested from patients treated at 17 Swedish cardiology clinics, and data related to 805 patients who had suffered from myocardial infarction was compared to information linked to 805 control subjects. The participants were matched according to gender, age and post code. Glucose load tests were carried out, and the research team also assessed the dental health of individuals using X-rays.

Participants who had already been diagnosed with diabetes were ruled out of the study, which left a total of 712 myocardial infarction patients and 731 controls. The groups were then divided according to their glucose status, creating normal, ‘reduced glucose tolerance’ and ‘newly detected diabetes’ categories.

The study suggests that undetected diabetes is linked to an elevated risk of myocardial infarction and periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease. Lead author, Anna Norhammar, claimed that the findings highlight the importance of monitoring blood sugar levels and underline the connection between oral and general health. This study builds on previous projects, which have linked diabetes to increased susceptibility to gum disease and cardiac complications.

In lights of the findings, the research team has called for increased collaboration between dental and medical professionals. Researchers suggest that doctors caring for patients with diabetes should view the condition as a risk factor for dental health issues and that doctors and dentists should work together to achieve optimum health outcomes.

New research links good oral health to lower Alzheimer’s risk

A new study has linked good oral health to a significant reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Bergen, Norway, discovered that gum disease plays a major role in determining the level of risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Dr Piotr Mydel, from the research team, explained that during trials, DNA-based proof that confirmed that harmful bacteria can travel from the mouth to the brain was established. Bacteria that are associated with gum disease produce a specific protein, which destroys nerve cells within the brain and affects the memory. Ultimately, this chain of events puts people at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The strain of bacteria in question, P.gingivalis (Porphyromonas gingivalis) is one of the primary causes of advanced gum disease and gum infections. It can cause long-term infections within the mouth, but research shows that it can also travel to the brain, where it damages the nerve cells. Approximately 50% of the population has this strain of bacteria, and around 10% are at risk of gum disease, infections, and according to this study, Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Mydel argued that the findings of the study do not suggest that the presence of bacteria is causative, but rather that the bacteria significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is one of the most common conditions in older people and it causes progressive loss of memory in addition to confusion and a gradual loss of the ability to recognise people and live independently.

The advice from researchers is to look after your teeth and gums, to see a dentist on a regular basis and to ensure you seek professional advice if you spot signs of gum disease, including bleeding gums, swelling, pain and increased tenderness in the gums.

Think tank argues that sugar should be treated in the same way as smoking

A UK think tank has suggested that sugar consumption should be treated in the same way as smoking, in a bid to clamp down on public health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and childhood decay.

In the last decade, every effort has been made to discourage people from smoking, and initiatives like prohibiting public smoking, adding warnings to packaging, banning advertising and selling cigarettes in plain boxes, have all had an extremely positive impact. In 2017, the number of smokers in England hit an all-time low.

Based on the success of measures enforced over the last 10 years, the Institute for Public Policy Research has compiled a new report, which suggests that sugary foods should be sold in plain packaging. Tom Kibasi, director of IPPR, believes that eliminating alluring wrappers and labels would help parents to resist “pester power.” The think tank would like to see this move introduced as part of a wider range of initiatives, including a ban on junk food advertising.

Representatives from the food and drink industry have been quick to respond to the report. The Food and Drink Federation suggested that branding represents a “fundamental commercial freedom,” which is vital for competition. Similar arguments were put forward by leading tobacco companies, but the government stood firm and it remains to be seen what kinds of measures will be introduced surrounding the promotion of sugary foods in the future.

A sugar tax has already been enforced on fizzy drinks, but with rates of obesity and childhood decay increasing, many health experts believe that more forceful action needs to be taken to reduce sugar consumption, especially among children. The latest research indicates that the average teenager in England consumers three-times the recommended intake of sugar.

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