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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Do you have what it takes to be a Buddy?

buddy9The British Dental Health Foundation is looking for Buddies to aid its quest to improve oral health in children. The charity is asking dental professionals, teachers and educators to take up the challenge and deliver oral health education in a bid to increase children’s oral health.

Latest figures reveal a third (33 per cent) of 12-year-olds have some kind of cavity while around one in seven (14 per cent) of eight-year-olds have signs of decay in permanent teeth, with one in 100 losing a tooth to decay.

Children who learn good oral health habits early are far more likely to carry them into adulthood – that is why today (Wednesday 3 April) the Foundation has launched – a website with a range of free materials and resources to encourage more dental professionals and schools to work together to deliver oral health messages to children in the community.

The symbol of the campaign is Buddy, a spaceman character who will set out to explore oral health in partnership with children.

Director of Educational Resources at the Foundation, Amanda Oakey, is asking for dental professionals and teachers to become a ‘Buddy’ themselves and take their expertise into the classroom.

Amanda said: “Teachers have a lot of pressure to deliver education that meets national targets in literacy, numeracy and areas such as Personal, Health & Social Education, which oral health happens to fall under.

“By working with local practices and oral health teams and sharing their knowledge and experiences, there is every chance to really make a positive difference for many children in the UK, particularly in more deprived areas where inequalities in health are more apparent.

“Oral health levels of children in the UK are generally very good but fundamental problems still exist. Children not being taken to the dentist, not being provided with toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste and having imbalanced diets loaded with sugar. These are basic lessons we can pass on directly to the children themselves and teach them the value of good oral hygiene.”

READ MORE: Dental Buddy – Be a Buddy

Dental Sedation

Written by Dr. Daz Singh

National Smile Month takes place 20 May – 20 June. It is an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of oral health matters by promoting three of the simplest messages: that people should brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day using fluoride toothpaste; that people should visit the dentist on a regular basis; and that people should limit their intake of sugary foods and drinks. It all sounds so simple, but the statistics don’t lie. More than a third of adults have been found to postpone getting dental treatment due to cost, and it doesn’t help when more than half of UK workers are not given paid leave for dental visits.

Dental fear

What if fear is standing in the way of your oral health? Fear of needles, fear of pain, fear of choking. It may sound like hocus pocus to some people, but the effects are real and can have a negative impact on a person’s dental health. We are here to tell you that you should not let a fear of the dentist stand in your way. The statistics have got it right, once again, with 60 per cent of people aged 65 and over being found to regret that they did not care for their teeth earlier in life. So please do not become just another statistic.
In the UK an increasing number of people are avoiding regular dental check-ups due to dental fears. The implications are far reaching and can lead to problems being left unidentified and untreated, leaving people in a situation where they run the risk of having to pay more for major dental treatment when, or if, they step into a dental practice. But everyone deserves access to dental treatment, and now.

Help is available through sedation

If your oral health is being affected by a phobia of the dentist then dental sedation is an effective solution to help you put your fears aside and get the treatment your teeth and gums need. There are dental practices investing in this area in terms of training and equipment, along with other patient care initiatives, to help patients receive treatment in a calm and comfortable environment. This also results in future appointments and check-ups being less stressful to attend, providing real long-term benefits to your oral health.

Ollie & Darsh are a specialist cosmetic dentist based in Liverpool.


Men – Brush up to keep it up

erection_problemsSevere gum disease in men more than doubles their risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction, according to a new study. In the study more than half (53 per cent) of men had severe gum disease in the group with erectile dysfunction, compared to fewer than one in four (23 per cent) without.

The results, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine1, also revealed men between 30-40 years old are most likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction if they have severe gum disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health2, erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is defined as the inability to attain and or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. It is a condition that affects one in ten men worldwide, and is more commonly experienced after the age of 40.

When people suffer from gum disease, bacteria from the mouth can get into their bloodstream, so it should therefore come as no surprise that this piece of research has linked vascular erectile dysfunction, another cardiac-related condition, with gum disease.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE: Men – Brush up to keep it up 

Surely people don’t die from a toothache?

Dying from simple dental decay might seem impossible, but on the eve of World Oral Health Day Mark Topley points out that – in some parts of the world – it is all too common.

 I run a British dental health NGO out in Tanzania. At a dinner recently on the shores of Lake Victoria, I sat next to an America surgeon visiting the area. As well as working within our local city, Mwanza, she was carrying out surgery in one of the district hospitals where our emergency dental training teams are based. As we chatted, the subject turned to the training we’d been providing in the Lake Zone.


 Although I knew that complications from untreated dental disease could cause real problems for people living in this part of the world, the comments my dinner companion made shocked me. Many of her patients, she said, needed major surgery to remove diseased tissue caused by untreated dental infection. As she explained, when a dental infection fails to ‘drain’ properly, the infection can track into the neck and then spread from there into the chest. This leads to tissue necrosis (tissue death) and septicemia (severe infection in the blood), often fatal. Treatment is to cut away the necrotic tissue and give high doses of antibiotics.

 Sadly, she reflected, this very rarely works. Once a person has infection tracking into their neck, the prognosis is not good. It was one of the enduring memories, and frustrations, from her visit. She summed it up with a comment at the end of dinner:

 “If I had my way, I would train an army of people to take teeth out safely. What people need in the villages round here is someone who can simply remove a diseased tooth, and stop the infection spreading.”

 Dying from decay

 It is 2013 and people are still dying from untreated dental decay. Two of our teams have just returned from the regions of Musoma and Bukoba in Tanzania, where for 10 days they have been training local health workers in emergency dentistry. They will train them in areas without running water or power, or the standard sterilisation kit we are used to here back in the UK (special charcoal-burning sterilisers are used instead). Yet for thousands of people living in distant, rural settlements there are now a dozen locally-qualified people who are able to treat their communities day-in, day-out, helping to prevent the sort of hideous conditions that my dinner companion had mentioned.

Sadly, however, the shocking reality is that three-quarters of the world’s population have no access to even the most basic of dental services. Dental Caries as the dental profession calls them – or tooth decay – is the world’s most common disease. It causes debilitating pain and drastically affects a person’s ability to function.

 DSCF0332Most developing countries don’t have enough dentists: here in Tanzania there is one dentist for approximately every 100,000 people (in the UK the ratio is 1:2,500). In Rwanda, where we are about to launch a new project, there are just 11 dentists for the entire country! To make matters worse, these dentists usually live in cities and large towns, where in these east African nations only a minority of the population is based. This lack of access to pain relief leads to chronic suffering, the loss of ability to work or support the family, withdrawal of children from school (to help support subsistence farming), and complications that can and do lead to death.

 So the access to a dentist in every village remains a utopia. What we believe is necessary, and where we feel our partnership with the Tanzanian government is leading the way, is to train medical personnel already deployed to these rural areas to provide a basic, pain-relieving service, combined with oral health education. We’re extending that partnership elsewhere in Africa now, backed by the support of many British dental professionals. Above all, though, all of us involved in this field must focus on relieving dental pain through training, so that local medics can carry out safe tooth extractions. Otherwise, literally, a toothache can kill.

 Mark Topley is CEO of Bridge2Aid, a British dental health NGO operating in East Africa | @mark_topley