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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.

New study reveals dentists in the UK are 37 times less likely to prescribe opioids than US dentists

A new study has revealed that dentists in the UK are 37 times less likely to prescribe opioids than their counterparts in the USA.

A joint research project conducted by teams at the University of Sheffield and the University of Illinois found that dentists in America are much more likely to recommend stronger painkillers than dental professionals working in the UK.

The findings of the study, which have been published in JAMA Network Open, also suggest that dentists in the US could reduce opioid prescription rates by following UK guidelines. Dentists in the UK are encouraged to advise patients to take painkillers like paracetamol and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, rather than more powerful opioids.

Researchers found that 22% of dental prescriptions in the US were for opioids compared to just 0.6% of prescriptions in the UK.

Martin Thornhill, co-author and professor of translational research in dentistry at the University of Sheffield, described the situation in the US as “shocking” and added that high opioid prescription rates are particularly alarming given that evidence suggests that alternatives including NSAIDs are as effective when treating oral pain. These drugs don’t tend to cause unpleasant side-effects like some opioids, and the risk of getting addicted to painkillers is significantly lower. UK dentists deal with the same issues as US dentists, but they go about managing pain in a very different way, and researchers believe that adhering to UK guidelines could help to prevent many more patients in the US from becoming reliant on opioids. Opioid addiction is one of the most widespread and dangerous health crises facing the US.

In addition to concerns about the potential for opioid addiction, researchers have also flagged issues related to wasted medication. The teams found that over a million pills are unused each year in the US.

UK dentists urge patients to chuck away charcoal toothpastes

You only have to scroll through social media or read the health sections of magazines to stumble across articles or promotional adverts that feature charcoal toothpaste.

In the last few years, charcoal-based dental products have become incredibly popular, especially among young people who are looking to whiten their smiles. Although adverts make claims that using charcoal toothpaste will revolutionise the appearance of your smile, dentists are eager to set the record straight.

Scientists analysing the impact of charcoal toothpastes have recently published their findings in the British Dental Journal, and they support warnings and advisory notices issued by dentists and dental organisations over the course of the last couple of years. Researchers from the University of Manchester Dental School found that using charcoal whitening toothpaste is likely to have no real impact on the colour of the enamel, and perhaps, most importantly, they discovered that choosing these products could actually have an adverse effect on oral health.

During the trial period, researchers examined 50 different types of charcoal toothpaste. They concluded that far from offering health benefits outlined in adverts and marketing campaigns, they actually increased the risk of enamel wear and erosion and could elevate the risk of sensitivity and decay.

Dr Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, co-author of the study, explained that claims made by the manufacturers of these products were unfounded and warned people against products that contain charcoal.

One of the major draws for consumers is the claim related to whitening the teeth. Bright white smiles are in demand, and many young people who use sites like Instagram, which are popular bases for social media marketing campaigns, are swayed by the price and by promotional images. These photographs, which often feature celebrities like reality TV stars, are likely to be digitally enhanced or filtered to make the teeth look whiter, and there is also a chance that the celebrities chosen by companies have already had cosmetic dental work done.

To achieve a white smile safely, dentists recommend professional whitening treatments, which are administered by trained, qualified professionals who are registered with the General Dental Council.

Dental mistakes you probably didn’t know you were making

Most of us grow up with an oral hygiene routine in place, but sometimes, habits of a lifetime don’t always reflect what’s actually good for us. Unwittingly, many of us make dental mistakes without being aware of the potential consequences.

One of the most common errors people commit when they brush their teeth is rinsing after brushing. Many of us learn to do this as children, and it becomes a habit we don’t even think about. Rinsing is actually counter-productive because it washes away the fluoride that is added to toothpaste. Fluoride is a mineral that protects the enamel and reduces the risk of decay and cavities. Rather than washing the teeth and rinsing after brushing, eliminate this step. This will increase exposure to fluoride.

Another problem is brushing technique. It’s understandable to assume that brushing firmly improves results, but being aggressive with your brush can actually do more harm than good. This is due to the fact that you can damage the protective enamel surface if you’re heavy-handed. If you have an electric toothbrush, you don’t need to exert any extra effort or force. The brush will do all the hard work for you, so gently guide it around the mouth, covering every surface of every tooth.

To improve standards of oral health, dentists are also eager to encourage patients to buy the right toothpaste. In recent years, abrasive products, which are sold as whitening toothpastes, have become increasingly popular. The trouble with these products is that they can weaken the enamel and there is little evidence to prove that they lighten the shade of the teeth. For the best whitening results, dentists recommend professional whitening treatment, which can be legally only be provided by trained, qualified, GDC-registered dentists.

Over half of Americans have delayed medical or dental treatment due to cost

New research suggests that over half of American adults have put off having medical or dental treatment due to cost.

A survey conducted by OnePoll found that more than 50% of participants have delayed treatment because they feared they would be unable to pay the bill. Although missing out on seeing a doctor or a dentist may save money in the short-term, the risk of complex issues increases, and patients could therefore end up paying more. According to the study, those who end up needing treatment at the ER face an average bill of over $12,000.

The US system is very different to the UK, and in 2017 alone, the average American adult spent almost $5,000 on healthcare. As fees are high, many are putting off routine appointments, but doctors and dentists are warning that this approach is likely to be even costlier in the long-run. Preventative procedures and routine checks are usually a lot cheaper than courses of treatment for complex conditions and procedures.

According to the OnePoll survey, which involved 2,000 Americans and was commissioned by DentalPlans.com, 42% of people don’t have money set aside for health problems. This is an issue, as many people end up needing emergency treatment, which they simply can’t afford to pay for. The most common type of emergency procedure carried out was treatment for a chipped tooth followed by lost teeth. Other examples included broken bones and cuts that required stitching.

The survey suggests that the average bill for ER care before insurance is over $12,000, and even those who do have insurance could end up with a bill for around $6,000. With the cost of treatment so high, it’s unsurprising that over a third of people put off paying off the debt and 22% said they had to borrow money to cover medical and dental costs.

The Head and Neck Cancer Foundation urges patients to ask dentists to provide oral cancer checks

The Head and Neck Cancer Foundation is encouraging patients to ask their dentist to include oral cancer checks in routine appointments.

Oral cancer checks should be provided as part of a routine dental check-up, but the HNCF is urging patients to make sure that their dentists are carrying out the assessment as standard. Looking for signs of oral cancer takes less than a minute, and should be included in the price of a regular dental check.

Research conducted by the HNCF in conjunction with YouGov suggested that many patients are unsure whether or not their dentist included oral cancer screening in routine checks. In a survey of patients in Wales, only 50% of adults go to the dentist every 6 months, and more than half said that they weren’t sure if their dentist had carried out an oral cancer check at their last appointment. Patients should be aware of oral cancer checks, as a dentist may say that they’re looking for potential symptoms, and they will also use an instrument to pull the tongue to one side and then the other and to look at the gums and the lips for signs of abnormalities.

CEO of the foundation, Michelle Vickers, said that most of us are unaware of the role dentists play in the early detection of oral cancer, a form of cancer that has become more prevalent in the last decade. Dentists are trained to provide routine oral cancer checks as part of standard check-ups, and those who miss out on appointments could therefore be putting themselves at risk.

To make people more aware of oral cancer and encourage patients to ask their dentist for mouth cancer checks, the HNCF has launched a new campaign called Get Mouthy About Cancer. The idea is simple and involves patients asking their dentist for a routine cancer check. Many people are aware of the signs and symptoms of other types of cancer, but there’s a serious lack of knowledge and awareness linked to mouth cancer, which is resulting in the majority of cases being diagnosed at an advanced stage. Routine checks help to identify changes that could signal oral cancer, increasing the chances of early diagnosis and successful treatment.

Gum bacteria drug could spell good news for Alzheimer’s sufferers

A drug that is used to target specific types of gum bacteria could spell good news for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Hundreds of patients could be given the drug COR388 after preliminary trials produced promising results. Researchers working on the drug analysed samples of brain tissue from patients who suffered from dementia when they died. They discovered that the samples contained higher than average levels of a bacterium known as Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) and toxins called gingipains. Tests conducted on mice revealed that gingipains can travel from the mouth to the brain, but that COR388 could prevent them from spreading.

Scientists suggest that gingipains facilitate the production of proteins known as beta amyloid and tatu, which are known to cause damage to brain cells and affect the ability to remember and retain memories. Researchers also found that P.gingivalis can be linked to rheumatoid arthritis and aspiration pneumonia.

Prof Jan Potempa, lead author of the study, explained that oral hygiene plays an instrumental role in our health throughout our lives, but stressed that those who have genetic risk factors that make them susceptible to dementia or rheumatoid arthritis should be particularly focused on maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

The drug COR388 has been developed by US company, Cortexyme Inc, which is renowned for producing medicines used to target neurological illnesses. A new trial, which involves a group of 570 patients who suffer from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, will start in the near future with results expected in 2021.

Prof Potempa, from the University of Louisville’s Dental School, is working with the drug firm on other compounds that could also destroy P.gingivalis.

In the UK alone, around 850,000 people are affected by dementia, and the figure is expected to reach 2 million by 2050.

Stained and yellowing teeth can cost you far more than just your confidence.

Researchers in the US are urging parents to keep their children’s baby teeth to combat potentially deadly diseases later in life.

Scientists from the United States National Center for Biotechnology claim that the stem cells in baby teeth are likely to be in better condition than those found in adult teeth, which may have been exposed to environmental hazards. Stem cells play a valuable role in the regeneration of new cells, and could help to save lives, according to the research team. It is thought that in some cases, using stem cells from milk teeth could eliminate the need to try and obtain stem cells from the bone marrow, which is a more complex process.

Although using stem cells from milk teeth is a relatively new concept, researchers believe that it could become much more commonplace in the near future. Stem cells could be used to treat some forms of cancer and to try and prevent heart attacks, and it’s also possible for the cells to facilitate bone growth, to regenerate tissue in the liver and eyes and to treat diabetes. Cells can be harvested from baby teeth up to 10 years after the tooth has been lost.

A trial in China revealed that stem cells taken from milk teeth helped to restore feeling and sensation in damaged adult teeth. Songtao Shi, from the University of Pennsylvania, which was involved in the study, explained that the treatment gave patients the ability to feel again, for example, to experience hot and cold. The university team is now planning to work on a trial that determines how using stem cells from a child can impact other people.

Why has dental tourism become more popular?

The number of dental patients leaving the UK to have treatment abroad is rising year on year, but why has dental tourism become so popular, and is it safe to have treatment overseas?

CEO of Kreativ Dental, Attila Knott, said that travelling abroad is an appealing option for many because it offers significant cost savings. Kreativ Dental, which is based in Hungary, is one of a host of overseas clinics benefiting from this growing trend. Prices are substantially lower in parts of Eastern Europe than they are in the UK, and this means that patients can afford cosmetic treatments or services like dental implants, which they simply wouldn’t be able to pay for at home. As dental tourism booms in countries like Hungary and further afield in India and Thailand, competition becomes more intense and fees fall, making travelling for treatment an even more appealing option.

For some patients, the idea of taking a break is also attractive. Many people return having had dental work and enjoyed a holiday and still find that they’ve saved hundreds, even thousands of pounds.

While there are many advantages of going abroad for dental treatment, there are also drawbacks. Standards of training may not be as impressive, regulations and good practice guidelines may not be as stringent, and the quality of materials used may not be as high. To combat the risks, it’s crucial to undertake extensive research before choosing a clinic, and to ensure that dental professionals have the relevant expertise and qualifications. It’s worth noting that it will probably cost a lot more to see a UK dentist to correct botched dental work than it would have been to have treatment at home in the first place.

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