Twelve percent of children have woken up from a nightmare about their oral health, according to the Oral Health Foundation (OHF). Its data, from a study of approximately 1,500 British parents, suggest that today’s children are more than 10 times more likely to suffer from bad dreams about their teeth than adults.
The study also noted that nightmares about the mouth are more common earlier years, affecting 18% of children age 5 and under. Plus, 47% of children have expressed anxieties about their oral health to their parents, with this number rising for children under the age of 5.
Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the OHF, believes younger children are becoming more conscious of the appearance of their teeth, which is causing unnecessary and harmful stress.
“It is really common for children between the ages of 3 and 5 to suffer from nightmares. This is the time when their imagination begins to develop and, along with the experiences they collect throughout the day, can influence the state of their dreams,” Carter said.
Younger children are being exposed to more television and social media, where the aesthetics of smile do not represent what can be considered normal or naturally achievable. This paints a false image of what their teeth should look like and can create lasting insecurities,” Carter said.
“With more video calls to family and friends, especially during lockdown, children are also seeing themselves on screen far more often. This too makes them more conscious of their appearance,” said Carter.
The study also found that 18% of children have opened up to their parents about not liking their smile. The OHF said it is extremely concerned by the findings, as 29% of children under the age of 5 also have spoken to their parents about changing the appearance of their smile.
The OHF conducted the research as part of National Smile Month, which aims to raise awareness about the value of good oral health. As part of the campaign, the OHF is giving advice to parents and families about how to maintain a healthy smile.
“The best approach to tackle any insecurities a child has about their smile is to introduce children to oral health education at the earliest age possible,” said Carter.
“By teaching children basic lessons about oral health, why we have teeth and how to keep them clean, we reassure them that the best teeth are not necessarily the straightest or whitest, but the ones that are healthy,” said Carter.
“There are so many online learning programs and activities that can make oral health education fun and appealing. By teaching children at home about how to achieve good oral health, you can help boost their confidence and reduce any anxieties they may have about their smile,” Carter said.
The OHF Dental Buddy program can be downloaded for free on its website. Dental Buddy includes games, lesson plans, and activities for children from the Early Years Foundation stage up to Key Stage 2.
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) has named Valli Meeks, DDS, MS, RDH, the winner of its 2020 William J. Gies Award for Achievement—Dental Educator. Meeks is a clinical professor in the Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD).
The honor, which salutes professionals who significantly advance oral health and dental education, is part of the William J. Gies Awards for Vision and Achievement.
“I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that this is a national award from such a prominent dental organization recognizing me for what I think of as just doing my job,” Meeks said. “But it also galvanizes me to try to improve and do it even better.”
For just over three decades, Meeks has served as director of UMSOD’s PLUS Clinic, the state’s first dental clinic for Marylanders with HIV and AIDS who have no insurance. Established in 1989, the clinic remains Baltimore’s primary facility to provide comprehensive oral health services to uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV and AIDS.
“I am extremely pleased and proud that Dr. Meeks’ tireless efforts on behalf of those living with HIV are being recognized with this prestigious national award,” said Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, UMSOD dean and professor.
“She has significantly improved oral healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS, increased understanding of HIV/AIDS among oral health students and professionals, and contributed to the quality of life for many,” said Reynolds.
In 2013, Meeks also teamed up with the University of Maryland School of Medicine Institute of Human Virology’s JACQUES Initiative to introduce HIV testing in UMSOD clinics to identify, educate, and refer HIV-positive patients for needed care through the Preparing the Future academic interprofessional program.
In collaboration with her colleagues, Meeks worked to amend the predoctoral dental and dental hygiene curricula to include competency in offering routine HIV testing and linkage to healthcare as well as identification of issues that lead to disparities in healthcare delivery.
As clinical trainer for the MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center, Meeks established the PLUS Clinic as a regional center for the diagnosis and treatment of oral lesions associated with HIV disease.
In partnership with the Rwandan Minister of Health and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Meeks also helped launch a bachelor of dental surgery program at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences. It is the only dental school in Rwanda to offer a BDS degree, and the class of 2018 was its first graduating class.
Known internationally as an expert on people living with HIV, Meeks has given presentations in Brazil, Nigeria, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom, among other countries.
In 2010, Meeks received the Faculty of the Year Award from the UMSOD’s Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences. In 2016, she received a University System of Maryland Regents’ Faculty Award for Public Service. In 2018, she was named a University of Maryland, Baltimore Founders Week Public Servant of the Year.
There is still much to be done, Meeks said, including continuing to spread the message, particularly to youths, that HIV/AIDS is a preventable disease.
“Prevention of new cases of HIV is our number one strategy for ending the epidemic locally. Getting the message to young adults and adolescents, as well as to those at risk for acquiring HIV, that HIV is preventable is a top priority,” she said.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing steps employers can follow to implement social distancing in the workplace and to help protect from exposure to the coronavirus. Safety measures that employers can implement include:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Isolate any worker who begins to exhibit symptoms until they can either go home or leave to seek medical care.
- Establish flexible worksites including telecommuting and flexible hours such as staggered shifts if feasible.
- Stagger breaks and rearrange seating in common break areas to maintain physical distance between workers.
- In areas where customers are present, mark six-foot distances with floor tape in areas where lines form, use curbside pickup, and limit the number of customers allowed at one time.
- Move or reposition workstations to create more distance.
- Install plexiglass partitions.
- Encourage workers to bring any safety and health concerns to the employer’s attention.
The alert is available for download in English and Spanish. OSHA’s Publications webpage offers additional workplace safety information. OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and coronavirus webpage provide further information about how workers and employers can protect themselves and their workplaces during the pandemic.
Noting the importance of respirators in the safe practice of dentistry, OSHA additionally is offering:
- Temporary Guidance for Respirator Fit-Testing in Healthcare
- Additional Respirator Guidance for Healthcare
- Guidance for Respirators Certified Under Other Countries’ Standards
- Guidance for Respiratory Protection During the N95 Shortage
The ADA has officially recognized orofacial pain (OFP) as the dental profession’s twelfth specialty. On March 31, 2020, the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards granted specialty standing based on compliance with the ADA’s Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties.
The American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) defines OFP as “the specialty of dentistry that encompasses the diagnosis, management, and treatment of pain disorders of the jaw, mouth, face and associated regions.”
Also, the AAOP says, “OFP disorders include but are not limited to temporomandibular muscle and joint (TMJ) disorders, jaw movement disorders, neuropathic and neurovascular pain disorders, headache, and sleep disorders.”
“The most important outcome of this decision is the relevance and impact it will have on improving care for patients with orofacial pain disorders. This has been the main driver behind AAOP pursuing orofacial pain as a recognized specialty,” said AAOP president Dr. Jay L. Mackman.
“There are millions of patients with orofacial pain conditions that currently have poor access to care due to the limited number of dentists who focus their practices in this field. It is hoped that the recognition of the specialty in orofacial pain will bring expanded training and research opportunities leading to improvements in quality and access to care for these patients,” said Mackman.
In the struggle to gain specialty status for OFP, numbers of civil lawsuits were filed in various jurisdictions against state dental boards.
“I think it's great that the ADA, the largest private trade association in dentistry, is finally loosening its grip on ‘specialty’ status,” said Frank R. Recker, DDS, JD, one of the principal attorneys for plaintiffs in expanding recognition of dental specialties.
“Changing the direction of a massive, slow moving ship isn't easy or done quickly, but the internal political machinery of the ADA decided it was better to turn slowly than to hit the ‘iceberg’ ahead!” said Recker.
The AAOP presented an extensive application for OFP’s specialty status to the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. The application included two-year and mostly three-year postgraduate accredited residency programs at highly prestigious teaching institutes, as well as their design, scope, and parameters of care, in addition to the recertification process and continuing education.
The AAOP made a strong case that general dentists and longstanding recognized dental specialists frequently weren’t addressing patient problems with chronic and acute orofacial pain. The OFP specialty not only would directly aid these patients in need but also advance dental research, foster evidenced-based treatments, and elevate standards of care.
The ADA’s recognition of OFP as a dental specialty comes on the heels of its recognition of oral medicine on March 2. A year earlier, on March 11, 2019, dental anesthesiology gained specialty status with the ADA.
One area in particular continues to fight for specialty recognition with the ADA—implant dentistry. The American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry is currently recognized by the independent American Board of Dental Specialties.
The efforts of various specialty organizations to gain recognition and standing for their members as dental specialists is wonderfully illustrated in a report by Dr. Riley H. Lund, editor in chief of The Journal of Craniomandibular & Sleep Practice.
“When asked if there will ever be a TMD specialty recognized in dentistry, my standard answer was that God had made too many orthodontists and oral surgeons to ever have one approved. Now, I recognize, in hindsight, that He made even more attorneys,” Lund prophetically said.
As the World Health Assembly held its seventy-third session virtually on May 18 and 19, the FDI World Dental Federation submitted a statement addressing the role of dentistry in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, FDI noted that civil society organizations such as itself should be part of the solution, and their knowledge should be leveraged.
For example, FDI is now carrying out a global survey to understand the current guidance, initiatives, and resources related to dentistry and oral health during the outbreak. Its data will assist in national level responses to the crisis, inform best practices related to infection prevention and control, and the redeployment of staff and reconfiguration of dental practices.
Second, FDI pointed out that WHO should provide technical guidance for dental practice. As dental procedures may generate a large number of droplets and aerosols, the standard protective measures in daily clinical work aren’t effective enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, FDI said.
Coordinated action to ensure the security of the supply chain of adequate, appropriate, and affordable personal protective equipment, therefore, is urgently needed, FDI said. Scientific investigation also is needed to understand the real risk of aerosols in the dental setting, as well as the role of diagnosis and immunological tests for a safer practice environment, FDI added.
Finally, FDI said that continued access to care should be secured and that health promotion and prevention measures should be strengthened as prevention, early detection, and treatment are key to avoiding an even bigger burden on health systems in the future.
Therefore, FDI said, we must ensure that vulnerable populations get the care they need without further delay to avoid unnecessary pain, suffering, or even early death. This includes:
- People who currently aren’t covered by healthcare systems, particularly refugees and displaced people
- People who are living with disabilities or who have other specific needs
- People who are considered high risk, including the elderly and those living with noncommunicable diseases
At the same time, FDI said, we must use the opportunity to highlight prevention strategies that can avoid people needing treatment at all, preventing a burden on health systems.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s Schools of Pharmacy and Life Sciences have discovered how the topography and chemical composition of dental and other implants can be adapted to control the immune response to them and reduce the risk of rejection.
Adults age 50 and older with at least one chronic health condition face a greater risk of tooth loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Researchers have completed a pilot study that shows promise for patients with oral lichen planus (OLP), which can result in a burning sensation, pain, and ulcers in the mouth, according to PCCA, a chemical repackager and relabeler in Houston, Texas.