A new case study appearing in General Dentistry, the journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, has made national headlines after drawing parallels between the oral hygiene issues seen in methamphetamine and cocaine users and a patient who consumed an excessive amount of diet soda for years.
Of the patients in question – a 29-year-old crystal methamphetamine user, a 51-year-old crack cocaine user for 18 years and a patient who admitted to consuming two liters of diet soda a day for three to five years – none had visited the dentist in years and all had extremely poor dental hygiene, resulting in what the authors described as erosion, cavities and discoloration.
But University of Minnesota School of Dentistry experts warn that extrapolating the true clinical impact of any single patient case is challenging. In addition, without context around the level of soda intake in question, alarming news headlines like those seen this week may be giving consumers the wrong message.
Alex Fok, Ph.D., is the Director of the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics in the School of Dentistry
It’s not every day a dental school hires a nuclear engineer to direct its research center, but that’s just what the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry did in 2007.
Alex Fok, Ph.D. has a vision to apply engineering principles to the design and assessment of dental restorations, which sets him apart in the health sciences. Fok completed his undergrad and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manchester, UK. He worked four years as a nuclear engineer, then joined the faculty of the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering where he worked on stress analysis of the fuel core components of graphite-moderated nuclear reactors
If you know a kindergartener, or were ever a kindergartener, it’s fair to say you’ve heard at some point that the most awesome holiday is Halloween. Why is it better than all the rest? Pillowcases full of candy.
Though a young child’s dream come true, mounds of candy is a mouth’s (and a dentist’s) worst nightmare. Most of us know sugar is bad for teeth, but do we really know why?
We met up with Dr. Dan Shaw, Pediatric dentist and Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatric Dental Clinics at the University of Minnesota to explain just how food affects teeth, and why candy can be so bad.
He broke down the facts, starting with acid attacks.
“An acid attack happens when sugar in our food interacts with the naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths to produce an acid which demineralizes or dissolves the tooth,” said Shaw. “This acid attack starts with the first taste of sugar and goes on for about a 20 minute period, so it takes 20 minutes for a mouth to go back to normal.”
Are there some candies that are real cavity culprits?
If you want to limit the duration and frequency of acid attacks on your teeth, Shaw says the goal is to be aware of how often and how long your teeth are exposed to sugar. So, things like suckers, hard candies and chewy candies, can be problematic.
“Sticky, gooey, chewy candies – like caramels – stick to your teeth and are more harmful in terms of what they will actually do,” explained Shaw. “They are on the teeth longer, causing a longer acid attack.”
Watch his full interview for tips on how to protect teeth from cavities during times of high sugar exposure, like Halloween.
Long before dental materials make it to your mouth, they have to be tested. But rather than have a person chew all day, every day for more than a year, the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB) within the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry came up with a better solution: they designed a mouth which has one sole job. Chewing.
The University of Minnesota’s very own chewing machine, or artificial mouth, helps researchers in the School of Dentistry develop and test restorative dental materials.
Dr. Alex Fok, academic director of the MDRCBB, took some time to chat with Health Talk about how the machine chews.
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