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In brief: Dentists "change antibiotic prescribing overnight"; chewing gum to reduce COVID spread

Sept. 27, 2022
Read about one "dental study group" and what dentists learned about prescribing antibiotics, a chewing gum that could trap SARS-CoV-2 in saliva, and what older people say are their top health regrets.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

More education for dentists on antibiotics = fewer prescriptions

Dentists write some 25.7 million prescriptions annually, amounting to about 10% of all outpatient antibiotic prescriptions in the United States. A recent study, reported in Contagion Live, asserts "dental study clubs" for dentists about the risks of antibiotics led to sharp decreases in prescriptions. The study of a small cohort of dentists indicated that theyhad no idea they could potentially be harming patients by giving antibiotics for procedures that there really is no evidence that they’re necessary and giving long durations of antibiotics,” the study’s lead author said. “But once they learned …they literally changed their antibiotic prescribing overnight.”

Older people regret not caring for their teeth more—but how much?

In a recent survey of older adults on oral health, some 72% indicated they wish they’d taken better care of their teeth when they were younger—yet many still aren’t doing so. The survey by Delta Dental, Older Americans' Oral Care Regrets, Barriers, and Impact, notes “not brushing and flossing more” among Americans’ top three biggest regrets about their overall physical health, but that 80% of older American adults still don’t get to the dentist as often as recommended.

Stronger than enamel

Scientists have engineered a synthetic dental coating that mimics the structure of natural enamel, but with even greater strength. Using hydroxyapatite as a starting point, scientists in Russia and Egypt applied the coating to natural teeth and found it exhibited impressive strength, and even greater hardness than natural enamel.

Better post-heart attack outcomes for people who get dental care

In a University of Michigan study of patients who had a heart attack followed by periodontal care vs. no dental care, researchers found that the patients with shortest length of stay in the hospital were those who had received periodontal maintenance. The longest length of stay was experienced by those who hadn’t received dental care. While the study didn’t establish a causal relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease, “Our results add weight to the evidence that medical and dental health are closely interrelated. More and more studies like ours are showing that it is a mistake to practice medicine without the thoughtful consideration of the patient’s oral health,” said the study's coauthor.

Chew on this: a novel approach to reduce COVID spread

A chewing gum in a clinical trial at Penn Dental Medicine is meant to do far more than freshen breath—it's designed to trap and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 in saliva and, ideally, diminish the amount of virus left in the mouth, with the hope that less virus would mean a lower likelihood of spreading COVID-19. Findings from a preclinical study of the gum’s efficacy showed it could reduce viral load to nearly undetectable levels, results that paved the way for the clinical trial.