Tag Archives: caries

Moms’ health, education can affect kids’ teeth

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Poor children suffer from more dental decay than their wealthier peers. In many cases, they live in communities where oral health services are hard to find. They lack access to the basic preventive care that children from more affluent families take for granted.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

Health officials and advocates stress the importance of addressing those disparities, expanding the nation’s public health infrastructure, opening more clinics in poor places.

Researchers into public health challenges have pointed out that whether you are fighting obesity or dental decay, it is harder to grow up healthy in a stressed, dysfunctional neighborhood than in one with amenities that promote well-being.

Better oral health services can help address the oral health problems of the community. But the community is just one ring in a kind of concentric system of factors some experts see as coming to bear upon wellness and disease.

The family is another ring in that system, they say. And new research suggests that the emotional health and educational level of mothers can have a lasting impact upon children’s oral health.

Starting with the oral health of teens and working backwards to age 3, researchers at Case Western Reserve Dental School explored what factors in the children’s past might have influenced their oral health outcomes.

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Fluoridation debate continues across the country

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Is there a fluoride debate in your future?

Public health advocates hailed the 5-0 vote by the Portland, Ore., city council on Sept. 12 approving the fluoridation of the city’s water supply. Fluoride opponents jeered and swore they would fight on.

Until the vote, Portland had been the largest U.S. city that had a non-fluoridated water system. The story was all over the evening news.

Here is how NPR’s Kristian Foden-Vencil handled the decision, in a piece that came out of a reporting partnership that included NPR, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Kaiser Health News.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

He spoke with Kim Kaminski, of Clean Water Portland, a group which is battling the introduction of fluoride in Portland’s water.

“She cited studies to support her cause,” Foden-Vencil reported. “Perhaps the most worrisome was a 2006 Harvard study. A key finding:

“For males less than 20 years old, fluoride levels in drinking water during growth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma.”

“Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer.”

But he also sought out Dr. Catherine Hayes of Health Resources in Action, an adviser to the 2006 study and co-author of a follow-up study and deconstructed the finding.

Hayes told Foden-Vencil that in the second study, “the researchers looked at samples of bone from people who had the cancer – instead of just gathering information about previous cases of the disease, as the first study had done,” Foden-Vencil reported. The researchers concluded there was no link between osteosarcoma and fluoride.

“There was no difference in the amount of fluoride in the bone,” Hayes said. “That’s really significant, because now we’re not estimating fluoride intake, we’re really measuring it.”

There is sure to be another story. Fluoride opponents have pledged to gather enough signatures to place the issue on a future election ballot.

There are stories to be written elsewhere. Phoenix, Ariz., just voted to continue fluoridating its water. Fluoridation will be put to a public vote on Nov. 6 in Wichita, Kan. In Missouri, St. Louis and St. Charles have reduced the amount of fluoride added to the city’s water supply. In Canada, the town of Red Deer, Alberta, “will decide next month whether to reduce, increase or eliminate fluoride in drinking water.” Officials in Santa Fe, N.M., are considering putting the fluoridation issue to a vote.

Are communities you cover considering fluoridation or perhaps reducing or eliminating fluoride from the water supply?

Research delves into disparities in children’s oral health

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Poor children suffer from more dental decay than their wealthier peers. In many cases, they may lack private insurance or live in communities where routine care or preventive dental treatments such as sealants can be hard to find. They may live in areas without fluoridated water or in places where tap water is mistrusted. Public health officials and advocates place great emphasis upon addressing such community needs.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

In fact, at a recent Capitol Hill forum on oral health Lynn Douglas Mouden, D.D.S., the chief dental officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services went so far as to say, “The combination of dental sealants and community water fluoridation can prevent virtually all decay in children.”

Yet even when community issues are addressed, family dynamics may play a deciding role in oral health disparities.

Newly published research suggests that even young children who have had the benefits of dental insurance, fluoride treatments and sealants can suffer dental decay by the time they are teens.

For a study just published in the Journal of Dental Research, researchers at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine explored what factors in the children’s past might have influenced their oral health outcomes.

They concluded that the emotional health, educational level and coping skills of their mothers could have made the difference. Continue reading