Monday, May 07, 2012

The Morning Drill: May 7, 2012

Centuries ago, dental calculus would build up through the years, layer after layer, like a stalagmite, sometimes reaching impressive proportions. University of Nevada, Reno researchers have discovered that analysis of tiny fragments of this material can be used effectively in paleodietary research – the study of diets of earlier ancient and populations – without the need to destroy bone, as other methods do

Good Monday morning!

On to today's dentistry and health headlines:

Anthropologists Discover New Research Use for Dental Plaque: Examining Diets of Ancient Peoples

While we may brush and floss tirelessly and our dentists may regularly scrape and pick at our teeth to minimize the formation of plaque known as tartar or dental calculus, anthropologists may be rejoicing at the fact that past civilizations were not so careful with their dental hygiene.

University of Nevada, Reno researchers G. Richard Scott and Simon R. Poulson discovered that very small particles of plaque removed from the teeth of ancient populations may provide good clues about their diets. Scott is chair and associate professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts. Poulson is research professor of geological sciences in the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering.

Nothing to Smile About

MacKenzie Doolittle, 9, isn’t afraid of the dentist. As she climbs into Dr. Nikki Stone’s exam chair, she chats amiably and explains that she knows all about plaque, cavities, and the importance of brushing her teeth. She started brushing every morning and afternoon after hearing in school that, if she didn’t, she could have “all false teeth” by the age of 28.

“I decided that I didn’t want that,” she says.

Thanks to an enterprising local public-health provider, Doolittle is the rare rural child with access to free dental services that come to her. Every year, a mobile van—donated by the Ronald McDonald House and affiliated with a nearby community health center—visits Doolittle’s elementary school so the dentist can clean teeth, apply sealants, and dispense fluoride treatments.

But when the second-grader opens her mouth, it’s clear she’ll need more than that. Despite her newfound vigilance, she has nine cavities, and Stone can’t fix them. The traveling clinic offers free care, but its mandate is limited to prevention: Kids who need cavities drilled or teeth pulled have to go elsewhere. And in Hazard, like many other rural areas, that’s not easy.

The United States faces a shortage of dentists that is particularly acute in poor, rural regions. Huge pockets of the country have few (or no) providers. The federal government counts 4,503 mostly rural regions where more than 3,000 people share one dentist, making it tough for many residents to find someone to fix their teeth.

Dentistry lacks consistency in restoration decision-making

Dentists who take a conservative approach to placing restorations tend to stay conservative when replacing or repairing them. And dentists who aggressively treat primary caries also stick with their preferred strategy when assessing existing restorations.

But majorities were lacking among decisions dentists made about the repair and placement of restorations, according to a study presented during a poster session at the recent American Association for Dental Research (AADR) annual meeting in Tampa.

"In contrast to the consistency of an individual practitioner-investigator's treatment planning approach, there was considerable variation among practitioner-investigators in their treatment recommendations on the same teeth," noted researchers from the Dental Practice-Based Research Network (DPBRN) Collaborative Group.

Enjoy your morning!

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