Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dentists May Be The First Line Against Measles

Thanks to vaccines and a diligent medical community, diseases such as polio and tuberculosis aren't really a worry.  However, one infectious disease remains a problem worldwide (including pockets of the United States):  measles.
Key to preventing the spread of measles is detecting the illness early. This is where a dentist can be lifesaving.  That's because the first signs of measles occur typically in the head and neck region -- and in the oral cavity.

Oral lesions called Koplik spots (clustered, white sores opposite the lower molars), may be the very first indication that a person has the measles.  These oral spots appear several days before the more commonly-recognized red "measles rash" develops.

In years past, measles was rare, and looking for symptoms during a dental exam wasn't routine.  But, according to Dr. Catherine Flaitz, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, times have definitely changed.

"All of a sudden, this viral infection has resurfaced," says Dr. Flaitz. "In the past, we educated our students about this disease with the caveat that it is unlikely they will diagnose a case among their patients.  And now with this lack of universal vaccination, we're beginning to see these oral manifestations present themselves again." 

In fact, after the recent Disneyland measles outbreak, dentists are now called upon to be "vigilant," for signs of this serious disease.


Monday, September 21, 2015


In a campaign to reduce worldwide rates of obesity and tooth decay, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of "free sugars" to less than 10% of their total energy intake.  Taking it a step further, for real health benefits, WHO suggests capping sugar consumption at no more than six teaspoons per day.

What are free sugars?  They are the sugars known as glucose, fructose, sucrose and table sugars that are added to processed foods, as well as the sugars that occur naturally in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.  (The free sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables and milk don't count as unhealthy.)  Too many free sugars in a diet can result in obesity, and can be harmful to oral health, often leading to gum disease and tooth decay.

Unfortunately, cutting back on free sugars is easier said than done. Much of the sugars consumed today actually are hidden in processed foods that aren't typically considered "sweets."  Just one tablespoon of ketchup, for example, contains a full teaspoon of sugar.  Slathering ketchup on a burger and washing it down with a can of non-diet soda can result in consuming about two days' recommended sugar intake in just one meal!

The best advice:  read labels.  Six teaspoons of sugar is equivalent to 30 grams.  Be on the lookout for non-sweet foods that may still contain lots of sugar.  Keep the sugar in check, brush and floss daily, and your bathroom scale, and oral health, will thank you.