Today's Dental News

Dentists Must Swallow New Federal Mercury Discharge Rule

WASHINGTON—The US EPA is preparing to regulate dental offices to prevent discharge of mercury from old fillings into the environment.

The agency announced on Sept. 27 that it will propose a rule to reduce mercury waste from dental offices in 2011. The rule, expected to be finalized in 2012, will require dentists to use mercury-separating technology by 2014.

The rulemaking is a reversal of Bush-era EPA policy, which allowed dentists to take a voluntary approach to installing devices that separate out the mercury from old fillings, recycle and reuse it.

Dental fillings containing mercury account for 3.7 tons of mercury discharged each year from dental offices across the United States, the EPA said today.

Read more: Dentists Must Swallow New Federal Mercury Discharge Rule


Braces for the Young Crowd

If you walk the halls of an elementary school, you’re likely to see a lot of “metal mouths.” Many parents are now opting for early orthodontic treatment, and the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist for an evaluation no later than age 7. But research shows there are often advantages to deferring treatment, though decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

“There’s been a number of studies that have shown for some very common problems that you’re better off waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in first before treatment is started,” said Robert Williams, a board certified orthodontist who teaches at the University of Maryland.

Common problems that fall into the “better-to-defer” category include conditions such as overjets—that’s when teeth protrude or stick out—or crooked teeth that just need simple straightening.

Read more: Braces for the Young Crowd


New Study Reveals Shocking Levels of Gum Disease

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr. Nigel Carter, issued new fears following a study that suggested the prevalence of periodontal disease in the US may have been underestimated by as much as 50 percent.

“The study shows that gum disease is a bigger problem than we previously thought and although this news comes from across the Atlantic, it could well apply to us here in the UK as well,” Dr. Carter said. “In this instance, the best course of action would be one of caution, given what is understood about the links between gum disease and other systemic links such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and pre-term births.

“It all means that the relationship between gum disease and other related illnesses now becomes even more critical, in light of these new findings. In order to better understand the full extent and characteristics of periodontal disease in the UK a full and comprehensive study needs to be carried out on our adult population.”

Read more: New Study Reveals Shocking Levels of Gum Disease


Dentists Help to Detect Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol while pregnant. Each year, FASD affect an estimated 40,000 infants in the United States—more than spina bifida, Down syndrome, and muscular dystrophy combined. Dentists have found themselves to be in a unique position to aid children with FASD because they may often see patients on a more frequent basis than a physician.

Defects caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol have been identified in virtually every part of the body. These areas include the brain, kidney, heart, ears, bones—and face. Dentists are now learning how to spot orofacial characteristics that often affect children with FASD, according to an article published in the September 2010 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

Read more: Dentists Help to Detect Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


Kentucky Tries to Improve Dental Care

Residents of Kentucky want to change the way they’re perceived. They don’t want to be judged specifically on what their smile looks like.

That’s why the state implemented a law that forces children to have proof of a dental screening or examination by the time they enter school. The law took effect this year but was passed in 2008.

About 42 percent of Kentucky children from ages 2 to 4 have some kind of tooth decay that hasn’t been treated. That’s why the state government decided it needed to create the law.

Kentucky’s dental problems don’t end there, however. The state has one of the highest rates of toothlessness and had the worst rate in 2002. The rate has since improved, but it can improve even more.

Read more: Kentucky Tries to Improve Dental Care


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