Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Morning Drill: February 21, 2012

Good Tuesday morning!

Hope you had a pleasant President's Day Holiday weekend.

On to today's dentistry and health headlines:

New Tongue Drive System Uses Dental Retainer to Operate Wheelchair

It’s been a while since we covered news about the tongue controller which enables quadriplegics the ability to operate wheelchairs and other devices by moving their tongues. The newest prototype of the Tongue Drive System makes use of a dental retainer with sensors to help control the system. The embedded sensors within the retainer track the movements of a small magnet attached to the tongue.

Problems related to using a headset as the magnet sensor in the earlier version of the system required the team to try a wireless dental retainer. The retainer is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and makes use of magnetic field sensors on the four corners of the device to track the magnet’s movements. The sensors transmit their information to an iPod or iPhone and special software enables the mobile device to control the movements of a cursor on a computer screen or to work as a substitute for a joystick in a powered wheelchair.

The Tongue Drive System can be made to interface with any standard electric wheelchair. Since the new version has an improved sensitivity, additional tongue movement commands can be programmed into the system.

Washington MLP proposal dies; California measure still pending

Measures that would have allowed midlevel providers (MLP) to do irreversible procedures were defeated this week by the Washington state legislators, but a bill that would allow California to study the benefits of alternative dental care providers is still being considered by state lawmakers.

The Washington bills, HB 2226 and SB 6126, did not receive enough votes to be heard by the state Senate. The measures would have created a dental hygiene practitioner and a dental practitioner, both of whom would be allowed to provide various levels of dental care "pursuant to a written practice plan with a dentist."

The Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) and the Washington Academy of General Dentistry opposed the bills, saying MLPs would lack sufficient supervision and would have insufficient training to diagnose cases.

Meanwhile, the California bill, SB 694, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley), has been passed by the state Senate 34-2 and is pending assignment to an Assembly committee. The measure is expected to be heard before the end of the legislative session on August 31, 2012.

The bill would establish a state dental director who could "design and implement a scientifically rigorous study to assess the safety, quality, cost-effectiveness, and patient satisfaction of irreversible dental procedures performed by traditional and nontraditional providers for the purpose of informing future decisions about scope of practice changes in the dental workforce that include irreversible or surgical procedures."

The California Dental Association supports the proposed legislation, but two other state dental groups -- the California Academy of General Dentistry and the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons -- oppose the concept of MLPs, saying they lack the necessary training to do irreversible procedures.

FDA Warns of Power Toothbrush Hazards

The brush head of the Spinbrush brand of electric toothbrushes can come off and injure the user, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned February 16.

Manufactured by Church & Dwight, the brush was sold under the Crest Spinbrush name until 2009; it is now sold as the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush.

The manufacturer could not be reached for comment.

The FDA warned about the following models:

  •     Spinbrush ProClean
  •     Spinbrush ProClean Recharge
  •     Spinbrush Pro Whitening
  •     Spinbrush Sonic
  •     Spinbrush Sonic Recharge
  •     Spinbrush Swirl
  •     Spinbrush Classic Clean
  •     Spinbrush for Kids
  •     Spinbrush Replacement Heads

"It's important that consumers know how to avoid the risks associated with using the Spinbrush," Shumaya Ali, MPH, a consumer safety officer, says on the agency's Web site. "We've had reports in which parts of the toothbrush broke off during use and were released into the mouth with great speed, causing broken teeth and presenting a choking hazard."

Answers to common vaccine questions

Here are some of the most common questions I encounter regarding vaccines and my answers.  I’m writing this post, from a parent to a parent, because I want to equip you with accurate information to protect your child.

We give so many vaccines now and it seems like we are constantly adding more.  Isn’t this too much for my child’s immune system?  Isn’t it antigen overload?

The immune system is very complex, with an entire field of immunology dedicated to its study.  Here is a short answer: If an infant gets 11 vaccines at once, it would use about 0.1% of her immune system. Quite simply, your child can be exposed to more antigens by playing on the carpet.

Isn’t it better to be exposed to the disease and develop a “natural immunity?”

I get this question mostly in regards to the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine.  An illness many parents remember getting as children.  My question in response is: why make your child suffer?  Chicken pox is miserable, with fever, cough, and awful itching and possible permanent scarring.  There are real complications from chicken pox including pneumonia, hospitalization, and deaths every year from this virus. True, initially we thought one vaccine was enough to bolster immunity; then, we later found a booster was necessary. Research has shown that one dose of the vaccine is 85% effective and two doses is 97-100% effective in preventing chicken pox.  And, by avoiding the real disease and virus by getting the vaccine, we can also prevent shingles.  And no one wants shingles – ouch!

Enjoy your morning!

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