Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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News - January 2017
Sugar tax will improve oral health
The tax on sugary drinks, due to come into effect in 2018, is likely to reduce tooth decay, obesity and diabetes no matter how the industry responds to the move, a major study published in Lancet Public Health has found. While industry groups have criticised the plan, UK researchers have concluded the tax will have significant health benefits, especially among children.
The researchers modelled three ways the soft drinks industry may respond to the levy: reducing sugar in drinks; passing some of the levy onto consumers by raising prices; and, encouraging people to switch to lower sugar drinks.
They found that an industry response focused on reducing sugar content is likely to have the greatest impact on health, with additional benefits if the industry successfully implements either or both of the other options.
The authors estimate that a reduction of 30% in the sugar content of all high-sugar drinks and a 15% reduction in mid-sugar drinks could result in 269,000 fewer teeth suffering from decay annually, along with other benefits including a reduction in obesity.
Passing on half the cost of the levy to consumers in higher prices for high- and mid-sugar drinks of up to 20 per cent was estimated to result in 149,000 fewer decaying teeth a year.
Lead author of the study, Dr Adam Briggs of the University of Oxford, said the research: “suggests that all of the most likely industry responses to the tax have the potential to improve health by reducing rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay”.
Dental vaccine may protect against periodontitis
A vaccine which could eliminate or reduce the need for surgery and antibiotics for severe gum disease has been validated by new research. A team of dental scientists at the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) at the University of Melbourne, Australia has been working on a vaccine for chronic periodontitis for the past 15 years. Clinical trials on periodontitis patients could potentially begin in 2018.
Moderate to severe periodontitis is very common and is associated with diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and certain cancers. It destroys gum tissue and bone supporting teeth, leading to tooth loss.
The findings of the study, published in NPJ Vaccines, represent analysis of the vaccine's effectiveness by collaborating groups based in Melbourne and at Cambridge, USA.
The vaccine targets enzymes produced by the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, to trigger an immune response. This response produces antibodies that neutralise the pathogen's destructive toxins.
P. gingivalis is known as a keystone pathogen, which means it has the potential to distort the balance of microorganisms in dental plaque, causing disease.
CEO of the Oral Health CRC, Melbourne, Eric Reynolds AO said it was hoped the vaccine would substantially reduce tissue destruction in patients harbouring P. gingivalis.
He said: "We currently treat periodontitis with professional cleaning, sometimes involving surgery and antibiotic regimes. These methods are helpful, but in many cases the bacterium re-establishes in the dental plaque, causing a microbiological imbalance so the disease continues … We hold high hopes for this vaccine to improve quality of life for millions of people”.
Dental storybooks help children with autism
The Oral Health Foundation in the UK is backing the use of children's storybooks with dental narratives, following a new study which has shown they can be a highly effective way of helping prepare children with autism for a dental visit.
The research, published in Special Care in Dentistry, found that almost two-thirds of caregivers felt that dental stories were a useful tool for both themselves and their child in preparing them for a visit to the dentist.
The stories were delivered to children via a range of different media, with caregivers questioned before and after the stories to analyse the effect they had on the children's attitudes to dentists.
The Oral Health Foundation believes the use of dental stories could lead to a significant benefit in the long-term oral health of children with autism, by helping to develop behavioural routines involving positive behaviour, such as tooth brushing.
Speaking on the issue, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "Many children with autism do not have the capacity to read and comprehend the feelings, experiences and motives of others and can have difficulty understanding the need for things many of us find simple. We have found that such activities like toothbrushing and dental visits can be particularly stressful for children with autism … which can lead to increased levels of oral health disease.
"By using dental stories, we can help them achieve an improved level of care and from this there can be real benefits to their oral health for life”.
Depression in mouth cancer patients
A new study has shown that elderly mouth cancer patients are at a significantly high risk of being admitted to hospital due to depression. The research, published in Gerodontology, found that men over the age of fifty who were suffering from mouth cancer were 56% more likely to be admitted to hospital with depression.
Many of these emotional issues come as a result of the significant problems mouth cancer patients face due to the nature of their treatment, which often affects the ability to communicate, eat, drink and even breathe.
Speaking on the issue Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "This research is extremely concerning when you consider that most people who are diagnosed with mouth cancer are men over the age of 50. We must be alert to this issue and offer comprehensive emotional support, even before they are diagnosed”.
When looking at data covering all ages, the research found that all male head and neck cancer (HNC) patients were 28% more likely to be admitted to hospital with depression, while for women the problem was even larger, with a 31% increase in the likelihood of hospital admission.
Dr Carter said: "A patient's emotional state has such a huge impact on the potential outcome of their illness. Research shows that many mouth cancer patients who are suffering from depression are less likely to participate in important treatment decisions and to seek the medical and emotional support needed to achieve a positive outcome in their illness”.