Saturday, April 18, 2009

Flap's Dentistry Blog Links - April 18, 2009


The Obama Administration announced Friday that it planned to lift some — but not all — of the financing restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research in place during the Bush administration, a move that will please many but not all scientists. The proposed guideline, which the administration plans to finalize by July 7, would allow research only on stem cells derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. Federal financing could still not be used to support the creation of embryos solely for the purposes of research or embryos created by therapeutic cloning.

Other U.S. airlines already had policies in place to address obese passengers that can result in them having to pay more. But it’s worth noting that Canada has taken the opposite approach to heavyweight passengers. The Canadian Transportation Authority last year ordered its carriers to make room for obese passengers by providing them a free extra seat, because it views obesity as a disability in that context. Air Canada’s new policy, for instance, which went into effect in January, states that obese passengers must get a medical certificate from their doctor, which is then good for two years of travel.

The U.S. FDA has granted 510(k) marketing clearance to Biolase Technology's ezlaze diode laser system for therapeutic medical and dental applications, including temporary pain relief, the company announced. This makes the ezlaze the only dental diode laser system that has FDA clearance for soft-tissue procedures, teeth whitening, and pain relief, noted Biolase CEO David Mulder in a press release. The FDA has given clearance for ezlase for the following indications in both dental and medical applications: temporary relief of minor muscle and joint pain and stiffness, minor arthritis pain, muscle spasm, minor sprains and strains, and minor muscular back pain; temporary increase in local blood circulation; and temporary muscle relaxation.

Patients who have major operations on the National Health Service are four times more likely to die than Americans undergoing such surgery, according to a new study. The difference in mortality rates was blamed on long NHS waiting lists, a shortage of specialists and competition for intensive care beds. The joint study, carried out by University College London and a team from Columbia University in New York, found that patients in Britain who were most at risk of complications after major surgery were not being seen by specialists and were not reaching intensive care units in time to save them. The study followed 1,100 patients at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth and compared them with 1,000 patients who had undergone similar major surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

The California Dental Association is reminding all parents that the May 31 deadline is rapidly approaching to have your kindergartener receive a dental check-up before entering first grade for the 2009-10 school year. The requirement has been in effect for two years and with tooth decay being the most common chronic childhood disease, it is essential that children develop healthy habits as early as possible. Visiting a dentist early can prevent missed school days and potentially costly treatment. Good oral health habits at home, along with regular check-ups, are the easiest and most cost effective ways to ensure your child remains healthy.

Here's something that has gotten lost in the drive to institute universal health insurance: Health insurance doesn't automatically lead to health care. And with more and more doctors dropping out of one insurance plan or another, especially government plans, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see a physician no matter what coverage you have. Consider that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reported in 2008 that 28% of Medicare beneficiaries looking for a primary care physician had trouble finding one, up from 24% the year before. The reasons are clear: A 2008 survey by the Texas Medical Association, for example, found that only 38% of primary-care doctors in Texas took new Medicare patients. The statistics are similar in New York state, where I practice medicine.

In the debate about universal health care, ensuring that all people have insurance is equated with making sure all individuals will receive health care. That’s not necssarily the case, says Marc Siegel, a New York doctor, in a opinion piece in the WSJ. A growing number of physicians are dropping out of insurance plans, particularly the giant programs sponsored by the government — Medicare and Medicaid. That means a patient may have coverage but still have trouble affording care, according to Siegel. Nearly 30% of Medicare patients surveyed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission in 2008 said they had trouble finding a primary-care physician. Another survey cited by Siegel of docs in Texas found only 38% said they took new Medicare patients. And he says 10% or more doctors dropped out from two big New York HMOs a year.

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