DENTAL BLOG: A clearer future for tooth whitening

When the European Council’s directive on tooth whitening was released at the end of October, clarifying that tooth whitening could only be carried out under by or under the supervision of a dentist and that the supply of tooth whitening products containing more than 0.1% peroxide could only be to dentists, the announcement was welcomed and supported by a number of leading dental bodies. Together they formed a group known as the Tooth Whitening Information Group (TWIG), to promote and ensure safe legal tooth whitening for the general public.

The three principal founders of the group, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Philips Senior Professional Relations Manager UK – Oral Healthcare, Mhari Coxon and Dr Stuart Johnston from the British Dental Association – discussed why the group is needed.

Q. What is the Tooth Whitening Information Group?

MC: The group offers the profession and members of the public clarity on tooth whitening treatment. Such a lot has happened in a relatively short space of time we found many people still unaware of the new legalities. The group has members from a number of dental bodies, including the British Dental Health Foundation, British Dental Association, British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, British Association of Dental Nurses and the British Dental Bleaching Society, and together our expertise can work in the best interests of the public.

SJ: Trading standards and the GDC are very supportive of this and have worked with us to make the process of enforcing the law simple and effective for them. The real issue is that these regulators have many other illegal or potentially dangerous activities to deal with – illegal tooth whitening is only one of many things they have to take action on. This is why the group will work to provide evidence and clear reporting of cases to support the work of these bodies and reduce the burden on their limited resources. We are also supporting them with the group’s knowledge of what is illegal and what isn’t.

Q. Why is such a group needed?

NC: It has become clear that the public do not fully understand what constitutes legal tooth whitening. Many still believe beauticians and high street kiosks can carry out the treatment, and not enough know they should visit the dentist. Cheaper alternatives are financially attractive, but they do pose real health risks.

MC: The same applies to the profession. There’s an element of uncertainty. It’s our aim to ensure every member of the profession knows the regulations regarding tooth whitening and feels confident in supporting the pubic and reporting any illegal activity they become aware of.

Q. What do you aim to achieve?

NC: Our primary aim is to educate and inform the public on how to achieve safe tooth whitening. We also want to offer clear guidance to the profession on the regulations and offer support to the relevant bodies who will be tackling illegal tooth whitening.

SJ: We are also going to set up a website where dental professionals and members of the general public can make the right people aware of illegal tooth whitening. The Group’s co-ordinator will work with those who are unaware they’re offering the treatment illegally to change their products and ensure the patients they are treating are not being put in harm’s way.

Q. What changes have you overseen?

SJ: We have already put a stop to companies offering discounted illegal tooth whitening treatments. The ease of access to these types of deals was alarmingly easy, and we’ve helped to educate these companies on what is and isn’t legal.

MC: I was delighted to see the High Court rule that tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry. The case involving Lorna Jamous reaffirmed our belief and helped to spread the message to the profession. There are no grey areas in the regulations now – if people want to get their teeth whitened, they must visit the dentist and have the treatment carried out by a suitably trained dental professional.

Q. Where can people go if they suspect any illegal tooth whitening?

SJ: The group launched its website – www.safetoothwhitening.org – specifically to deal with this issue. Any members of the profession that are aware of disregard for the law can register their complaint on the site.

NC: The same applies to the public. If they know of any illegal tooth whitening practice, or wish to make a complaint about a product, they can let the group know and we will take the complaint up on their behalf.

MC: There will also be consistent information for both professionals and the public on the site to help them make informed choices about tooth whitening.

Summer foods vs good oral health – not always a breeze

Written by Dr Nigel Carter

As a nation, we might rejoice when the summer season comes around, yet millions of holiday-makers and picnic-goers could be putting their oral health at greater risk with their summer diet.

Consuming too many acidic foods, as well as eating more sugary foods and drinks, traditionally associated with summer-time and holidays, can potentially increase the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay.

Risks of dental erosion and tooth decay are also increased during the holiday season as eating-habits and patterns often change. It is more likely that normal meal-times are disrupted during the holidays and snacking and grazing increases, which can cause multiple-attacks on teeth throughout the day.

Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attacks from foods and drinks. Many holiday foods like vinaigrettes, olives, red wine and ciders are very acidic. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, and if it is worn away, the dentine underneath becomes exposed and teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.

READ THE FULL STORY: Summer foods vs good oral health – not always a breeze

Government fails to reduce mouth cancer cases

Written by Dr Nigel Carter

Following last week’s announcement that plain packaging would be put on hold, the decision to shelve minimum alcohol pricing has been met with dismay by many leading health experts.

While Minister Jeremy Browne has said the policy would remain under consideration, there was not enough “concrete evidence” minimum pricing could reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking without hurting those who drank responsibly.

We believe the Government has made the wrong decision. Deaths from tobacco use and alcohol are entirely preventable. It seems the Government has caved into pressure from both industries and in doing so has failed to cut levels of mouth cancer.

Both plain packaging and minimum alcohol pricing would help to reduce the number of people who develop the disease. Tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess are the leading risk factors for mouth cancer, a disease many experts have forecast will rise over the next decade.

READ THE FULL STORY: Government fails to reduce mouth cancer cases

Why the fizzy drinks tax should be implemented

Drinks packed with sugar have long been problematic to the health of the nation. The Foundation has supported a number of policies designed to curb sugary drinks consumption, including a report backed by more than 60 organisations calling for a tax on sugary drinks.

The report1, compiled by Sustain entitled ‘A Children’s Future Fund – How food duties could provide the money to protect children’s health and the world they grow up in’, makes three main recommendations for Budget 2013 it believes would help to improve children’s health. They are:

  • Introduce a sugary drinks duty for the UK which, for example at 20p per litre, would raise around £1 billion a year;
  • Ring-fence the majority of money raised from a sugary drinks duty for a Children’s Future Fund, which could be spent on improving children’s health by, for example, providing free school meals, or sustainably produced fruit and vegetable snacks in schools; and
  • Give an independent body the responsibility to oversee how the sugary drinks duty is implemented and make sure the revenue is spent effectively.

This is not the only report to suggest such a course of action. The National Heart Forum published a report2 last year also calling for the introduction of a duty on sugary drinks to reduce consumption levels and raise money to support public health programmes. The growing support and backing for these programmes cannot be ignored by the health industry.

In the UK 60 per cent of adults are considered overweight and obese. Diet-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion each year, and conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease have also increased, placing a substantial burden on the healthcare system and the economy.

READ THE FULL STORY:  Why the fizzy drinks tax should be implemented

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Milking the benefits

A new study has found that drinking a glass of milk after breakfast significantly reduces the build-up of plaque.

Results of an American study1 have shown a small glass of milk more than halves the build-up of plaque acids after eating dry sugary breakfast cereal.

Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and the study reaffirms the belief that drinking milk after a meal can also help because it neutralises the acids and re-mineralise the teeth after eating.

The frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks exposes teeth to longer periods of acid attacks and weakens the enamel. While some experts have labelled breakfast as the most important meal of the day, research group Which? discovered 12 out of 14 cereals2 we know and love contain worryingly high levels of sugar. Even cereals perceived as healthy are somewhat contradictory, also containing high levels of sugar.

The UK in general has developed a very unhealthy food environment, making it even harder to improve dietary habits. Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: “It is important to remember is that it is not the amount of sugar you eat or drink, but how often you do it. A sugary breakfast once a day might not cause significant damage to your teeth on its own. It is the snacking culture that seems to have developed throughout the day that is harmful.

READ THE FULL STORY:  Dental News: Milking the benefits

Eight top tips for terrific teeth

National Smile Month is the perfect opportunity for you to pay extra attention to the importance of oral health. With this in mind, Karen Coates, Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation, has eight top tips for terrific teeth.

1. Visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many teeth you have, you should always follow your dentist’s advice about how often they need to see you.

So why are check-ups so important? Well, for starters prevention is always better than cure. Regular visits to the dentist can identify problems developing early, and more importantly set you on a path to rectify them.

There’s a chance everyone will suffer from gum disease at some point in their lives – it’s that common – so do remember to get to your dentist or hygienist as often as they recommend.

2. Take diet into consideration

Diet may have a large impact on the growing obesity problem in the UK, but there’s no escaping the damage a poor diet does to our teeth.One of the Foundation’s key messages is ‘cut down how often you have sugary foods and drinks’. This is a particularly important message for parents to remember. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. Food and drinks which are kindest to teeth include cheese, crackers, breadsticks, raw vegetables, plain water and milk.

It is also worth remembering that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients – the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes, these are shown as fructose, glucose, lactose, or sucrose.

3. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste

It’s important to brush your teeth first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste. Why? During the night the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s cleaning system, slows down. This leaves the mouth more at risk to decay; therefore brushing acts as a preventive measure.

READ THE FULL STORY: Eight top tips for terrific teeth

Events near you

Each year National Smile Month is supported by thousands of organisations throughout the UK who arrange events and activities in the name of good oral health. Whether it’s a National Smile Month display, a talk or demonstration, or something much larger, we’re sure there will be an activity going on in your area!

Our Events Map below shows where there is something special happening for this year’s campaign. Make sure you get in touch to find out more………