Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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News - October 2016
Receding gums: treatment options and causes
Receding gums are also known as gingival recession. The pink gum tissue normally covers the root of the tooth. This can become exposed when the gum is pushed back or if the tooth is in an abnormal position. Receding gums are common and often unnoticed at an early stage. There are many risk factors, but getting older is the main one. The major concern with receding gums is that when the roots of the teeth become exposed, they are at risk of decay, infection, and loss.
Poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease are linked to gingival recession. But receding gums can happen in people with good standards of oral hygiene too. Some people are more prone to receding gums because of tooth position and gum thickness.
Tooth enamel structure and composition revealed in 3D nanoscale maps
Using nanoscale technology, researchers have for the first time produced detailed 3D maps of the composition and structure of mature human tooth enamel. The maps show the position of atoms critical to the process of tooth decay.
The team from the University of Sydney in Australia describe their work in a paper published in the journal Science Advances and suggest it should help improve oral hygiene and prevent tooth decay.
Human dental enamel is the hardest tissue in the body. Scientists have already established that dental enamel’s mechanical strength and resistance to fatigue comes from its complex hierarchical structure of periodically arranged bundles of nanowires.
The new study gives detailed information about important trace ions in the tough structure of tooth enamel. Senior author Julie Cairney, materials and structures engineer and professor in Sydney's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said: "The structure of human tooth enamel is extremely intricate and while we have known that magnesium, carbonate, and fluoride ions influence enamel properties, scientists have never been able to capture its structure at a high enough resolution or definition”.
One of the team's key findings surrounds the magnesium-rich regions between the nanorods that make up the structure of tooth enamel. The team could also see ‘nanoscale clumps’ of organic material in the 3D structure.
One of the study’s lead researchers Dr Alexandre La Fontaine said: "The new understanding of how enamel forms will also help in tooth remineralisation research”.
Losing teeth raises older adults' risks for physical and mental disability
Maintaining good oral health may help older adults prevent a variety of health problems and disabilities. However, the effect of tooth loss on physical or cognitive health and well-being is unknown.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers explored this connection. To do so, they examined information from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) project.
They learned older adults who have significant tooth loss are less functional when compared with people who lose fewer teeth.
In their study, the research team examined information from more than 60,000 community-dwelling people aged 65 and older who did not meet the Japanese criteria for needing long-term care.
The participants were given questionnaires to complete. They answered a number of questions, including providing information about:
The research team suggested that it is essential that older adults receive the support they need to maintain good oral healthcare practices, and that they receive adequate dental care.
The report states: “In an ageing society, physical, cognitive, and social ability are all important components of successful ageing and increasing healthy life expectancy. Higher-level functional capacity is a measurement not only of physical and cognitive functioning, but also of social ability, such as skills for independent community living”.
Using protein to fill cavities could regenerate dentine
Dentists today typically use amalgam or other artificial compounds to fill cavities. However, Dr Anne George of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry believes dentists should instead fill cavities with the dentine matrix protein 1 (DMP1), which binds calcium and can help regenerate dentine, an important component of teeth.
Dr George has been studying DMP1’s role in bone metabolism since 1992, when she and her team first cloned it.
She said: “We have been trying to identify the function for this protein, which is predominantly present in bone and teeth. Besides being involved in the mineralisation function, we now know it plays an important role in bone metabolism. Therefore, the current proposal seeks to further clarify this role, along with identifying its interacting partners”.
“Nature uses simple proteins like DMP1 with multifunctional capabilities to produce large calcified structures such as our skeleton and teeth. The way nature regulates their function is mind-boggling. Deciphering a little bit of their function by my lab members is gratifying. I am amazed by what we learn in the lab regarding the function of this protein with simple experiments.”