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New Report Reveals Startling Disparities in Prison Dental Care

The oral health needs of American prisoners are not being adequately met, according to a report in the American Journal of Public Health. The report highlights a strong correlation between poor oral health among inmates and higher rates of chronic illness among the same population.

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Energy Drinks Sapping the Life from Teeth

What comes to mind when you hear the words "energy drink"? Maybe ,like many, you imagine a rush of endorphins strong enough to power you through an intense workout or soccer game. Maybe it calls to mind that much-needed boost of alertness to push through that late-night study session or due-in-like-two-hours term paper you just started. No matter the image, what it probably doesn’t make you think about is an increased rate of oral health problems and higher rates of obesity. But, according to researchers, these maladies are exactly what those so-called energy drinks are causing.

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Could Some Mouthwashes Cause Diabetes?


A recent study published in the scientific journal Nitric Oxide has uncovered an alarming link between the mouthwash millions of Americans use every day and the disease diabetes. The study was conducted by the Department of Pathology and Center for Free Radical Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

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Another E-Cigarette Explosion Renews Questions About Safety

When Matt Yamashita of Pearl City, Hawaii, went to use his e-cigarette before hitting the basketball court, he got a surprise he won’t soon forget. That’s because instead of creating the steam vapor he was expecting, his cigarette exploded in his mouth, taking with it four teeth and requiring 40 stitches in his mouth. Yamashita will also require surgery for dental implants to replace the missing teeth once his primary injuries have healed. But what caused this explosion - and could it have been prevented?

Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina, has a theory, but she says most e-cigarette smokers aren’t going to like it.

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Could Hot Drinks Increase Cancer Risk?


Are you one of those people who just aren't awake without that morning cup of coffee or tea? Well, according to the World Health Organization, depending on how hot you drink your beverage of choice, you could be putting yourself at an increased risk of developing cancer. In a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, researchers found a link between very hot beverages - exceeding temperatures of 149 degrees Fahrenheit - and esophageal cancer, which is the eighth most common form of cancer, and the sixth deadliest.

 

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Oral Bacteria Linked to Esophageal Cancer

Another important reason to take care of your teeth has just been revealed, and many dentists are hoping it will encourage patients to pay closer attention to their oral health. According to a study published in the December 2017 issue of the journal Cancer Research, when no other risk factors were present (such as the patient having a high BMI, or regularly smoking or drinking alcohol), patients who had certain oral bacteria in their mouth had an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. In fact, that same bacteria found in patients with gum disease was present in the esophagus of patients with esophageal cancer.

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FDA Approves Sleep Apnea Implant


If you’re one of the estimated 22 million Americans with sleep apnea, you are probably already aware of the lack of comfortable options to treat the condition. From awkward and uncomfortable sleep masks to breathing tubes and oral appliances, many patients choose to simply not wear their apnea device, even though wearing it could save their life.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. According to research from the University of Wisconsin, untreated, severe sleep apnea can increase a sufferer’s risk of death by three times the rate of those who don't have the disorder. Worse yet, having sleep apnea can worsen other medical conditions. Data have shown that of the roughly 610,000 people who die of heart disease each year, an estimated 38,000 also had sleep apnea. Having sleep apnea can even increase your risk of hypertension, stroke and heart attack.

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Could Aspirin Cure Cavities?


If you’re one of the 91 percent of Americans with dental caries or cavities, you know what a pain they can be. But good news may soon be on the way from a team of researchers at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland. The study, which was discussed at the British Society for Oral and Dental Research annual meeting in September, claims that dentists may someday be able to use aspirin to heal dental cavities.

 

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Periodontal Disease Linked to an Increased Risk of Cancer in Women

A recent study by BMC Oral Health found that older women with periodontal disease were at a higher risk of developing certain cancers than women with healthy gums, even if the women with periodontal disease had never smoked.

The study followed nearly 66,000 women between the ages of 54 and 86, some of whom reported having gum disease. The researchers followed up with the women via survey over an eight-year period following the initial response. Those who initially reported having gum disease had 14 percent more cases of certain cancers than those who did not have gum disease.

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Study Shows More Detailed Link Between Diabetes and Tooth Loss


If you’re one of the estimated 29 million Americans who suffer from the insulin-regulating disease diabetes, you are probably already aware of the many high risks the disease carries, including the elevated risk of tooth loss due to periodontitis. But while the connection has long been known and well documented, until recently, doctors have not been able to explain why such a connection exists.

 

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A Good Smile is Still a Major Player in Modern Dating


Dating site Match.com has released its seventh annual "Singles in America" dating survey, and it’s got a lot to say about what single Americans are looking for in a partner.

The survey, which quizzed singles on everything from their social media habits to who should pick up the check, also inquired about what qualities are important in selecting a partner.

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New Oral Cancer Test Could Be Coming to a Dental Practice Near You


With oral cancer rates increasing around the world, researchers are working diligently to find faster and more accurate ways to detect this potentially fatal disease before it’s too late. Here in America, oral cancer has become so common that according to the National Cancer Institute, one American dies from oral cancer every 60 minutes. But while in decades past, oral cancer was most frequently caused by lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol and cigarette smoking, oral cancers due to the human papilloma virus, or HPV, are on the rise.

 

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Is Virtual Reality the Future of Dentistry?


For some patients with dental anxiety, they’d rather be anywhere but sitting in a dentist’s chair. But while a lounge chair on a warm, sandy beach sounds like a lovely alternative to fillings and root canals, avoiding much-needed dental work isn’t doing your mouth any favors. So, what if you could visit the dentist and relax on the beach at the same time? No, we’re not talking about poolside dentistry. We’re talking about virtual reality, or more specifically, implementing the use of virtual reality equipment during dental procedures. While the idea may seem far-fetched, it's already yielding some big results around the globe.

 

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Dental Cavities on the Rise


Dental caries, or as they are more commonly known, cavities. They’re those pesky little spots of decay in your teeth that form when your below-the-surface tooth enamel breaks down, causing the surface enamel to collapse, and creating a sinkhole in your tooth. But what causes cavities in the first place, and why are they on the rise?"According to recent data, cavities are increasing across every single age group in America," said Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina. "Which is ironic, because today there are more tooth care products on the market than ever before."But according to Simpson, the increase in cavities may not be entirely about hygiene."A recent study at the University of Zurich found that genetic enamel defects may be caused by not just bacteria on the teeth, but by the strength of the enamel itself," explained Simpson. "Basically, some teeth have stronger enamel than others, and those with weaker enamel have less protection against cavities."

It’s in His KissAnother surprising cause of cavities?"Believe it or not, it may be your parents," says Simpson.Simpson is referring to the numerous studies that have shown that the bacteria responsible for causing cavities can be easily transmitted between parents and children, and even children and peers. Known as "vertical transmission," the bacteria can be transmitted via saliva if the parent or person doing the transmitting has serious, untreated tooth decay. Transmission from peer to peer or sibling to sibling is known as "horizontal transmission."According to Simpson, vertical and horizontal transmission occur most frequently at a time in a child’s life when they’re at an especially high risk for tooth decay. The natural immunity to S. Mutans bacteria (the bacteria responsible for tooth decay) we develop over time has not yet developed, and the initial passive immunity passed from the mother to child during pregnancy has worn off."All it takes for vertical or horizontal immunity to pass from one person to another is a kiss or a shared cup or utensil," said  Simpson. "It really is as simple as that."Is Prevention Possible? So, what can we do to prevent this type of bacterial transmission? After all, most parents aren’t going to stop kissing their kids."I wouldn’t say don’t kiss your kids," said. Simpson. "But maybe try to avoid kissing them on the mouth if you haven’t brushed your teeth recently. Also, avoid sharing cups, straws, utensils, toothbrushes, or anything else that has been in your mouth. I know it’s easier said than done, especially when your toddler grabs your drink off the table, but all the more reason to keep current with your dental exams and maintain excellent oral hygiene between cleanings."

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Baby Teeth Offer Autism Clues


A recently released study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has found a connection between prenatal and postnatal exposure to some metals, and autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD. Conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, the study used naturally-shed baby teeth to measure levels of lead, manganese and zinc in children with and without ASD. The study analyzed the teeth of 32 pairs of twins and 12 individual twins to control genetic influences.

To measure the metals, researchers used lasers to cut out thin layers of the tooth’s dentin, much like dendrologists do when they use dendrochronology to date tree rings. By extracting dentin in this manner, researchers can measure metal exposure at various stages of the tooth, and by proxy, the child’s development.Lead Exposure May Hold a KeyWhat the researchers found was that baby teeth from the children with ASD had higher levels of lead and lower levels of both manganese and zinc compared to the children who did not have ASD. Even more fascinating, those levels stayed relatively similar throughout the child’s development, with lead levels peaking shortly after birth. Children with ASD were also found to have lower manganese levels both in the womb and shortly after birth. Zinc levels were lower in utero among the children with ASD, but those levels increased dramatically after birth, surpassing the levels of the neurotypical children at the same stage."We are really beginning to see just how important a barometer the teeth are to whole-body health," said Wilmington, North Carolina dentist Dr. Michele Simpson. "This study is just one more glimpse into how extremely connected the different systems of the body are to each other."The authors of the study conclude that autism spectrum disorder and early exposure to certain metals may be linked, but that the key to determining why some children develop ASD and others don’t lie in how the body processes those metals.Teeth May Offer Future InsightIn addition to the groundbreaking findings regarding ASD, many in the medical community are optimistic about the possibilities that baby teeth may hold in shedding light on other developmental disorders, like ADHD."Dentin samples and dental stem cells from shed baby teeth are showing lots of promise in both understanding and treating many different disorder," said Simpson. "A recent study in England used dental stem cells extracted from baby teeth to treat children with autism and even showed improved developmental markers in areas like language and memory. It will be exciting to see what other medical breakthroughs teeth will play a role in in the future."

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Does Brushing Your Teeth Affect Your Appetite?


For years, people trying to lose a few extra pounds have been offered tips like ‘If you get hungry, just brush your teeth," and for many people, that advice has proven to be sage. But as writers at the magazine Popular Science recently discovered, that wisdom doesn’t hold true for everyone.  Following some recent engagement with fans on their Twitter page, the brains behind Popular Science discovered a surprising number of their followers believe that brushing their teeth actually makes them hungrier, not the opposite. So, which is true? Both ideas can’t be right- or can they?

 

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Coping with Dental Fears in Looming Nitrous Oxide Shortage


When a deadly explosion tore through an Airgas nitrous oxide plant in Cantonment, Florida in August of 2016, the last thing anyone was thinking about was their teeth. But after the dust settled and the victim was laid to rest, both the medical and food industries were left with the startling realization that a nitrous oxide shortage was a very real possibility.  Unfortunately, despite Airgas’ attempts to shift manufacturing of their laughing gas to other plants, they are still falling short on production nearly a year later. As a result, they have cut back shipments to foodservice companies who typically use the gas as an aerosol to create things like whipped cream. Despite these efforts however, the medical community is still feeling the pinch of the shortage, and patients around the US who have come to rely on laughing gas to get them through anxiety-ridden dental procedures are now faced with the reality of having to attend their dental visit without the aid of this popular relaxer. Dr. Michele Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina understands what the nitrous oxide shortage means to practices like hers. She's also aware of how it can impact her patients, however, there are things patients can do to help get them through their dental anxiety without the help of laughing gas.

Though production of nitrous oxide has been hampered since August, when the FDA announced that nitrous oxide supplies were depleting to record lows back in January, they assured Americans the supply would be restored by the end of February. Unfortunately, their estimates were off and the shortage continues. Many dental practices around the US are using their last tanks, and some are already out. So, what does this mean for patients who grapple with the very real fear of the dentist, or odontophobia?Simpson, who provides nitrous oxide for sedation in her practice says patients who rely on laughing gas to get them through their appointment shouldn’t be dissuaded from keeping their appointments.

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Dentists Caution Against Growing Foreign Dental Tourism Trend


As health insurance costs skyrocket and more and more employers are declining to offer dental coverage as part of their compensation packages, Americans with costly dental work are feeling the pinch in their wallets. To get the care they need without breaking the bank, many patients are traveling beyond borders to undergo procedures that can often cost three or four times more in the US. But a growing number of dentists are cautioning patients that when you undergo dental procedures in some foreign clinics, you may not be getting the bargain you think you’re getting.

According to the North Carolina-based research firm Patients Beyond Borders, an estimated 500,000 patients per year cross the border to Mexico for dental care each year, and that number is on the incline. In fact, Patients Beyond Borders estimates that global dental tourism is increasing at a rate of about 15-25% a year, with most Americans heading to Mexico or Costa Rica for dental procedures, followed by Turkey, South Korea and Malaysia, to name a few. So, what’s the big deal? If patients are saving money and getting the care they need, that can’t be a bad thing, right? Not so fast, says Wilmington, North Carolina dentist Dr. Michele Simpson."When you cross the border to any foreign country for care, you could be putting your health at risk," Simpson said. "In the US, we have numerous safeguards in place to protect the patient from unsanitary or unsafe practices or practitioners. In foreign countries, while there may be standards, you don’t know how strictly they’re enforced, or if there is recourse at all if something goes wrong." Whereas in America, doctors have a litany of organizations in place to make sure the highest standards are met, not every country requires as much "That’s part of why the costs in the US are higher," Simpson said. "Because doctors must carry malpractice insurance, licenses, permits- many of these safeguards are expensive, but they’re worth the investment in your health and safety."

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Could You Be Diagnosed with Diabetes at Your Next Dental Exam?


A recent study by the University of Amsterdam and published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that patients with periodontitis were twice as likely to have undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes as those with less severe forms of gum disease. We spoke to Dr. Michelle Simpson of Wilmington, North Carolina about this study and what it could mean for the future of diabetes diagnosis.An estimated 422 million people suffer from the condition known as diabetes. Here in the U.S., that number hovers around 29 million with another 8 million cases undiagnosed. Unfortunately, those numbers appear to be growing. In fact, it’s estimated that 37 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are already pre-diabetic, a condition that if not corrected will inevitably lead to full-blown diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder categorized by the body’s inability to process blood glucose properly. It causes blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels to rise to a state called hyperglycemia, making the body resistant to insulin and causing the pancreas to make extra insulin at first, and not enough insulin as the disease progresses. Patients with diabetes have shorter life spans, and frequently suffer from a host of other complications including increased risk of heart disease, lower-limb amputations, blindness, dementia, sexual dysfunction and kidney failure.

The University of Amsterdam study used glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) stick tests to evaluate the blood of 313 patients. Shockingly, researchers found that the higher the patient’s HbA1c, the more frequent and severe the patient’s periodontitis. Furthermore, nearly 50 perecent of those patients with some stage of periodontitis were at a minimum pre-diabetic.

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Alzheimer’s Drug Could Heal Cavities


Dental occlusions, or cavities, are the number one dental problem facing American adults today- with nearly 90% of people between the ages of 20-39 possessing at least one filling in their teeth. But when it comes to treating cavities, very little has changed since the 1830’s when the first amalgam fillings were used- that is, until now. Recently, a team of scientists at King’s College in London made headlines after finding success treating cavities with a new drug in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease- and their findings could change how we treat cavities forever.  Wilmington, NC’s Dr. Michelle Simpson explains.Though it hasn’t even hit the market yet, the drug Tideglusib is already causing quite a stir in the medical and dental communities- for its ability to help both Alzheimer’s patients and surprisingly, regrow the dentine in the teeth of laboratory mice. Recently, a group of researchers at King’s College in London set out to discover if the stem-cell-encouraging drug Tideglusib can be used to help more than Alzheimer’s patients. To conduct the study, researchers drilled small holes in the teeth of test animals and then filled those holes with tiny, biodegradable sponges soaked in the drug Tideglusib. As the teeth absorbed the Tideglusib, the sponges dissolved, and the holes in the teeth healed shut on their own. "This is important because unlike with fillings that simply act as a semi-permanent patch which re-fills the damaged area of the tooth, Tideglusib healed the damaged teeth- eliminating the need for fillings entirely," explains Dr. Simpson.Next up for Tideglusib is more clinical trials- this time with actual cavities- not just holes drilled into healthy teeth. If the King’s College team is able to demonstrate success with tooth decay, then human trials will likely follow, and hopefully someday in the near future, Tideglusib will be approved for use in treating cavities. In addition to trials for the treatment of dental occlusions and Alzheimer’s disease, the drug is also in testing for use in patients with Myotropic Dystrophy and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder.So, what does a dentist think about Tideglusib potentially healing cavities? "It would be wonderful," says Dr. Simpson. "I actually think it would help patients take better care of their teeth because they would be less afraid of getting fillings or having teeth extracted, and less afraid to visit their dentist in the first place. If I were to tell a patient ‘if we catch your cavity before it has a chance to worsen, we could heal it’ I think they’d be a lot more likely to come in at the first sign of a problem. Instead of waiting until the pain is unbearable, and losing the tooth."

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Michele Simpson DDS

Wilmington Dental Office

3317 Masonboro Loop Rd • Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28409

(910) 550-3959

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3317 Masonboro Loop Rd
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Wilmington, NC 28409