Dental Therapists: New Wave of US Oral Care to Combat Dentist Shortage

June 11th, 2014

dental therapists chronic bad breath

Within the last few years, a new class of dentists has emerged called dental therapists. The position has spawned in states facing oral health care shortages, but the new professionals, also known as midlevel dental providers, are being met with strong resistance from dentists.

In 2009, Minnesota became the first state to allow licensing of dental therapists. Since then, Alaska followed and Maine signed a state bill regarding the measure into law last month, becoming the third state to do so. Meanwhile, legislative efforts in other states like Vermont, Kansas and New Mexico are underway.

Essentially, dental therapists are dentistry’s version of physician’s assistants. After two years of intensive training prior to entering the field, they operate under the direct supervision of dentists and are able to perform hygiene maintenance (regular cleanings), fill cavities, give restorations, provide sealants, utilize extractions and administer local anesthesia. They can do as many as 53 procedures in some states. Conversely, licensed dentists, who receive eight years of training, can perform more than 500 procedures.

At the heart of the problem is the severe shortage of dentists, which is fairly surprising considering the profession ranked No. 3 in U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Best Jobs of 2014.

“Maine is having an oral health crisis,” Mark Eves, Maine’s speaker of the House, told USA Today. “The rural part of the state is at a critical point where we need to do something.”

In Maine, 15 out of its 16 counties do not have enough dentists, with more than 62 percent of low-income children in the state going without access to dental care in 2011, according to DentistryIQ. The 600 practicing dentists among a population of 1.3 million constitutes the fewest dentists per capita in New England. To complicate matters, 40 percent of Maine’s dentists are nearing retirement.

A similar dilemma is taking place in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Heather Luebben, an advanced dental therapist, pointed out that Minnesotans lack access to proper dental care, as licensed dentists are too few and far between. Luebben began her career as a hygienist before training to become a dental therapist, and she is one of 32 dental therapists who are now practicing since the state’s law was passed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Study: 1 in 10 Americans have Diabetes

June 5th, 2014

diabetes dry mouth gum disease

The percentage of Americans with diabetes has almost doubled since 1988, new research shows. Now a staggering 21 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the blood glucose disease, which has a potent ability to affect their oral health.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the rate of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes was 5.5 percent. By 2010, that number jumped to 9.3 percent, according to the new report.

For the study, which was published in the April 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This included more than 43,000 adults followed from the first survey period (1988 to 1994) to the most recent (1999 to 2010). From 1988 to 1994, the rate of diagnosed diabetes was 5.5 percent. By the next survey in 1999 to 2004, that number had leapt to 7.6 percent. In the most recent survey, which looked at data from 2005 to 2010, the prevalence of diabetes rose to 9.3 percent.

“Diabetes has increased dramatically,” Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the study’s lead author, told HealthDay. “The rates have almost doubled since the late ’80s and early ’90s.”

Understanding diabetes Diabetes is a disorder that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than average. When you consume food and drinks, the body normally breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is an essential fuel source for cells. However, for the 21 million Americans with the disease, the body has trouble regulating insulin, the hormone responsible for transferring the sugar from the blood to the cells as nourishment.

There are two main forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually develops during adulthood, while Type 1 typically occurs in children and young adults, affecting roughly 5 percent of people who have the disease.

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Sneezes and Coughs Travel Farther than You Think

June 2nd, 2014

sneezes cough travel farther

Imagine a cloud of gas launching from your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. According to new research, this is exactly what happens, allowing particles from sneezes and coughs to travel up to 200 times farther than previously thought.

The study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that the droplets produced when we cough or sneeze are accompanied by “gas clouds” that enable them to traverse greater distances. As a result, coughs and sneezes are far more capable of spreading viruses than scientists had thought. 

“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” study co-author Dr. John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, said in a statement. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”

Bush described a cough or sneeze as a “multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud,” because the cloud mixes with surrounding air before the liquid droplets fall out, evaporates into solid residue or both. The study was recently published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

For the experiment, researchers used a combination of high-speed imaging, mathematical modeling and laboratory simulations, which allowed them to analyze the fluid mechanisms behind coughs and sneezes. Contrary to previous belief, each mucus droplet from a cough or sneeze is connected through interaction with a gas cloud. While previous research suggested that larger drops travel farther than smaller drops because they have more strength behind them, the MIT investigators found that when droplets merge with the gas cloud, their trajectories are altered. 

Droplets that are 10 micrometers in diameter were found to travel 200 times farther than past estimates, while droplets 100 micrometers in diameter traveled five times farther. Read the rest of this entry »

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Keeping Up with Oral Health as You Age

May 29th, 2014

oral health as you age

May is National Older Americans Month. Despite the belief that many seniors lose their natural teeth as they age, about 75 percent of people 65 and older have retained all or some of their natural teeth.

With that being said, there’s no doubt that older adults face oral health problems. Sure, one might think that he or she need not be concerned about cavities anymore. But, just like with younger people, tooth decay can cause pain and discomfort as well as wear down the gums. In fact, cavities can occur more frequently in older adults for several reasons. Firstly, seniors may not have been exposed to a fluoridated water system as children or used toothpaste that contains fluoride in the past.

As gum tissue begins to recede in older adults, cavities become more prevalent, since plaque has more space to harbor between the teeth and gums. Also, dry mouth, a result of the natural aging process and certain medications, can lead to more tooth decay. Perhaps most relevantly, older adults are also more likely to have decay around older fillings.

“I wish all fillings and dental work would last forever, but dental work requires maintenance,” Dr. Bruce Terry, a member of the Pennsylvania Dental Association, told the Digital Journal. “Everyone should be seen by their dentist regularly to see if there are any broken teeth or fillings. The health of the gum tissues can also be an early sign of several systemic diseases like diabetes.”

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It’s the last day for the Memorial Day Sale at TheraBreath!

May 26th, 2014

memorial day sale

Hi there,

Happy Memorial Day! So what are your plans today? The beach? A barbecue? Some time relaxing by the pool? Before the festivities get started, take a few minutes to place an order at TheraBreath.com because this is the last day to get 15% off your order of $49 or more PLUS free shipping! Just be sure to enter coupon code AMEM4 during checkout.* This sale, just like Memorial Day, goes kaput at midnight tonight.

On relaxing days such as this, adult beverages are often enjoyed. Did you know that alcohol dries out your mouth, which leads to dry mouth and bad breath? But it doesn’t have to. As long as you use your TheraBreath products, dry mouth and halitosis won’t be an issue, so why not stock up now so you’re set for the entire summer?

Even if you don’t partake in alcohol, the impending summer heat often leads to dry mouth on its own, so be sure to drink plenty of water and (of course) use your TheraBreath.

Enjoy your Memorial Day and your short work week!

* Offer valid on orders shipped to the US and Canada only. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Offer expires at 11:59pm PDT May 26, 2014.

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