Articles Posted in Dental Care

flossIt wasn’t the kind of reporting to force a U.S. president to resign. Still, the Associated Press did cause some red faces among dental and diet experts by exposing a lack of research rigor and a bit of publication sleight-of-hand. This all turned on debunking a bit of oral health dogma: Do we really need to floss our teeth every day?

The AP reviewed two dozen research studies and found “weak, very unreliable,” and “very low” quality data to support the staunch position propounded by federal agencies, as well as two leading dental associations, that flossing is a must, and that it produces superior health outcomes versus simple daily tooth brushing.

Uncle Sam has flogged flossing for decades, including recommending it in the evidence-based national Dietary Guidelines put out every five years. This year that advice mysteriously disappeared in the latest guidelines, the news service found.

bitewingThe cost won’t exactly break the bank. But it might equal what you will pay for the oral health care that prompted the visit. When the dentist starts saying it’s time for partial or “bitewing” X-rays, just say no, a health care economist recommends.

Austin Frakt, an expert writing in the paper’s Upshot column, hit a nerve with hundreds of New York Times reader-commenters when he noted that no less august a group than the American Dental Association recommends that bitewing X-rays should be taken sparingly and probably not annually, especially for an otherwise healthy (dentally speaking), recurring, adult patient in a practice.

But as Frankt pointed out, too many dentists have made these X-rays part of the yearly cleaning regimen. He says, in passing, that insurers often cover this procedure, which can cost as much as the cleaning−effectively doubling the per patient revenue for practitioners.

big_sodaThe City of Brotherly Love has passed a tax demonstrating its affection for new revenues and its dislike for unhealthy, sugary soft drinks: It’s unclear, however, whether other governments will follow Philadelphia in imposing soda taxes and whether these levies achieve their public health goal of discouraging harmful sugar consumption, especially by kids.

Big Soda and its allies, grocers and labor unions, fought tooth and nail the city’s 1.5-cent per ounce soda tax, airing $700,000 in opposition commercials and spending an estimated $5 million to persuade officials in a notably poor city to be like 40 other municipal or state governments in rejecting what opponents attacked as a Big Brother levy.

In the end, Philadelphia’s craving for cash for its coffers, as much as any potential health benefits for young folks in town, carried the day. City officials stressed, for example, that the soda tax could fund pre-kindergarten education and other programs. As the New York Times describes it:

Let the patient beware is an adage that may need to be extended to yet another realm of healthcare: dentistry. Kudos to a reporting team in Texas for their recently published investigation, disclosing that dentists all too frequently are involved in procedures in which their patients die and that ineffectual regulators fail to halt dodgy practices and feckless practitioners, some of whom hopscotch across the country with impunity.

The seven-part Dallas Morning News series finds that at least 1,000 dental patients have died in the last five years due to questionable oral healthcare. The report says the numbers may be greater but that regulatory laissez-faire prevents the public from understanding the severity of the issue.

Patients who go to dental practices for issues as minor as tooth decay and as significant as oral surgery all have ended up dead, often after undergoing poorly supervised anesthesia, the paper says.

Orthodontic work is expensive and often not covered by medical insurance, so it’s understandable that some people might entertain the idea of do-it-yourself braces using tiny rubber bands.

Don’t even think about it.

A report that recently aired on WTHI TV in Indianapolis featured orthodontists cautioning against such a DIY project in response to videos circulating on social media inviting people to improve their smiles all by themselves.

Although rumblings have begun to include dental care under Medicare coverage, medical plans generally don’t cover your teeth. And for some people who forgo dental care because it’s not subsidized, a routine tooth problem can escalate into a serious medical issue.

Christopher Smith was one of those people. His story, as told by USAToday.com, started with a toothache and turned into a raging infection that ultimately landed him in intensive care on a ventilator and feeding tube.

Many people don’t have dental insurance, and most dental plans aren’t very good; unless you have chronic, expensive dental problems, most people don’t find these policies cost-effective. Smith, 41, didn’t have dental insurance and hadn’t seen a dentist in years.

As the old song goes, the toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the heel bone… But did you know that the heart is connected to the gums and jawbone? As the Harvard Health Letter recently explained, new research strengthens the association between dental and cardiovascular health.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined health and dental insurance records from nearly 339,000 people with two distinct disorders – periodontal disease, which includes a range of mouth problems from simple gum inflammation to serious soft tissue and jawbone damage – and one of these five conditions:

  • type 2 diabetes;

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