Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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Cavity prevention starts early
When it comes to oral health, start good habits early – before age two. That's the conclusion of a study of more than 1,000 children published in the journal Acta Ondontologica Scandinavica.
The study was done in Norway, and kept track of children from birth to five years. When the children were 18 months old, their parents completed surveys about brushing, flossing and other oral health behaviours. They answered the same questions when the children were five years old, and each child was given an oral exam and x-rays then too.
The researchers found that certain habits at 18 months could help to predict a higher risk of tooth decay at age five:
• Brushing teeth less than twice a day: Children whose teeth were brushed less than two times a day when they were 18 months old were twice as likely to have decay as children whose teeth were brushed two or more times a day.
• At least one sugary drink per week: Children who were offered sugary drinks at least once a week when they were 18 months old were nearly twice as likely to have tooth decay at age five as children who had fewer sugary drinks.
The study took family factors such as income and education into account.
The authors conclude that early habits have long-term effects on oral health. They suggest that healthcare professionals help parents who may have challenges establishing healthy habits early on.
Study shows impact of dental care costs on families
Having to pay for dental healthcare can put a considerable strain on household finances in many countries, according to an international study led by King's College London.
The study assessed the extent of household 'catastrophic dental health expenditure' (CDHE) in 41 low- and middle-income countries. Expenditure was defined as catastrophic if it was equal to or higher than 40% of the household's capacity to pay.
Up to 7% of the households surveyed had incurred CDHE in the last month. The study found that wealthier, urban and larger households, and more economically developed countries, had higher odds of facing CDHE. In low- and middle-income countries, the use of dental services is more a function of the household's ability to pay than of people's dental needs.
The analysis did not include the indirect costs of seeking dental care, including income loss due to ill health, travel, waiting at clinics, or providing care to family members and the results, therefore probably underestimate the financial consequences of dental healthcare on these households.
Researchers pointed out that using dental services can cost households a large proportion of their available income and push many into poverty and long-term debt. Those needing dental treatment face both the direct costs of using the service and the indirect loss of income to attend a clinic during working hours.
They said that dental public health advocates and international dental organisations should push for dental care to be included in current discussions about universal health coverage.
How gum disease treatment can prevent heart disease
A new study is helping to shed more light on the important connection between the mouth and the heart. According to research recently published online by the American Heart Association, scientists have demonstrated that using an oral topical remedy to reduce inflammation associated with periodontitis (gum disease), also results in the prevention of vascular inflammation and can lower the risk of heart attack.
This study is the first time researchers anywhere have demonstrated the ability of an oral treatment for gum disease to also reduce inflammation in the artery wall. The active ingredient is an inflammation-resolving molecule known as Resolvin E1. This discovery further underscores the increasing body of evidence showcasing how problems in the mouth – and how they are treated – can have life-changing influences on other key systems in the body, such as the heart in this case.
"Our research is helping to underscore the very real link between oral health and heart disease," said Lead Investigator Hatice Hasturk DDS PhD. "The general public understands the connection between heart health and overall wellness, and often takes appropriate steps to prevent heart disease. More education is needed to elevate oral wellness into the same category in light of proven connections to major health conditions."
According to the CDC, heart disease accounts for one in four deaths in the United States, and the rate continues to rise. These findings suggest a need to expand the public's understanding of risk factors beyond cholesterol, smoking, hypertension and diabetes to include a focus on oral health. With support from the scientific community, the researchers aim to generate greater awareness of gum disease as a critical risk factor for heart disease, independent from diet and lifestyle.