Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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Dental visits vary during pregnancy
Certain groups of women are more likely to visit the dentist during pregnancy, according to an article in the December issue of the Journal of Periodontology.
The study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, included mothers who were visiting a health centre to have their children vaccinated. Mothers answered questions about:
• oral health;
• their oral hygiene practices; and,
• any dental visits during pregnancy.
In all, 423 mothers completed the study. Their average age at delivery was 29.5. Almost all of the mothers brushed their teeth at least once every day. About 19% said they had problems brushing during pregnancy. About 25% had dental problems during pregnancy. Half of the women visited a dentist during pregnancy. Most visits were for regular check-ups or preventive care. About 29% received dental or periodontal (gum) treatment. Women who were more likely to visit during pregnancy:
• had more education;
• were covered by dental insurance;
• had higher family incomes;
• had more knowledge of possible connections between oral health and a healthy pregnancy; and,
• visited the dentist regularly before becoming pregnant.
Doctors recommend regular check-ups and cleanings during pregnancy and suggest that, if possible, non-emergency dental work should be scheduled for the second trimester. By the third trimester, a pregnant woman may not be comfortable in the treatment chair.
Smokers' mouths primed for disease, says study
Smoking changes the bacteria in a person's mouth, putting smokers at risk for disease, according to a study in the ISME Journal, the official journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.
The study was carried out by UK and US researchers who collected plaque samples from under the gums of 200 people. All of those studied were between 21 and 40 years old, and healthy. Some were smokers; others had never smoked. None had gum disease.
The numbers and types of bacteria were different between the groups. On average, smokers had more types of bacteria in their mouths than nonsmokers did. Smokers also had more types of disease-causing bacteria. This included a species called Fusobacterium nucleatum, which has been linked with colorectal cancer. They had fewer types of 'friendly' bacteria.
Certain types of bacteria are linked with tooth decay, and smokers had more of these bacteria in their mouths than nonsmokers did. One type, Lactobacillus salivarius, was only found in smokers. Smokers also had more of the bacteria that can cause gum disease, although no one in the study had gum disease.
The authors suggest that smoking may help to create a risky environment in the mouth. This could make smokers more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease, as well as to other diseases.
Link discovered between tooth loss and slowing mind and body
The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, new research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found.
The research looked at 3,166 adults aged 60 or over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and compared their performance in tests of memory and walking speed. The results showed that the people with none of their own teeth performed approximately 10% worse in both memory and walking speed tests than the people with teeth.
The results were fully adjusted for a wide range of factors, such as sociodemographic characteristics, existing health problems, physical health, health behaviours such as smoking and drinking, depression, relevant biomarkers, and particularly socioeconomic status. However, after adjusting for all possible factors, people without teeth still walked slightly slower than those with teeth.
These links between older adults in England losing all natural teeth and having poorer memory and worse physical function 10 years later were more evident in adults aged 60 to 74 years than in those aged 75 and older.
The researchers suggest that tooth loss could be used as an early marker of mental and physical decline in older age, particularly among 60- to 74-year-olds. They found that common causes of tooth loss, and mental and physical decline, are often linked to socioeconomic status, highlighting the importance of broader social determinants such as education and wealth to improve the oral and general health of the poorest members of society.