Key to tooth loss is
'in the spit' says dental charity
THE UK's leading oral health charity has revealed that a
simple saliva test could soon be used to tell dentists which
patients are more likely to lose their
teeth. The British Dental Health Foundation was speaking after
new research presented at the International Association of Dental
Research meeting in America last month found that a protein found in
saliva could be used to predict which
patients are more likely to lose the bone that keeps their teeth in
The findings, which came from the University of Buffalo, could allow
dentists in the future to provide special guidance for people at
extra risk of tooth loss, helping thousands of people to avoid
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, commented:-
"Although still very much in its early stages this could be a
very important development. If a test as simple as this can be
used to predict future problems with bone loss in the gums, then
dentists will be able to take measures to prevent this extra risk
from having an effect. It could also be used as a way of
monitoring patients over a period of time and determining whether or
not a particular treatment is working. The fact that it could be
carried out so quickly and cheaply would make it a remarkably
convenient way of carrying out such an important test."
The scientific study involved researchers comparing dental x-rays of
100 patients with analyses of their saliva. The researchers
found that higher-than normal levels of a salivary protein called
IL-1-beta were associated with increased bone loss while lower
levels of osteonectin could also be a marker of gum health.
Dr Carter continued:- "While this research may in the future
help dentists to distinguish which patients are likely to suffer gum
problems, the emphasis will still be on the individual to keep
problems at bay by maintaining a good oral
healthcare routine. A good oral healthcare routine should
include twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing
daily and cutting down on the frequency of sugary foods and drinks.
Regular visits to the dentist are also vital in ensuring that the
gums and teeth are kept as healthy as possible."
HEWITT ANNOUNCES FULL SCALE CLINICAL AUDIT
Patricia Hewitt this week announced a review of the quality of care
provided by NHS treatment centres run by the independent sector.
Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into
Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs), she said that although
all existing evidence pointed to a safe, high-quality service, the
Healthcare Commission would carry out a wide-ranging clinical audit
of the programme to date.
Patricia Hewitt said:- "Although ISTCs are required to meet
exactly the same standards as NHS care, and are subject to a
rigorous monitoring regime, the review will be a timely and
appropriate way to assess their work with the NHS so far. As
well as assessing the delivering of care in the centres, the review
will assess any clinical views and concerns expressed by
professional bodies about aspects of the programme. All of the
existing evidence points to a safe and efficient service.
However, as the ISTC programme develops further it is right that
wider-scale scrutiny is given to the independent sector's
contribution to the NHS which is why the Chief Medical Officer has
asked the Healthcare Commission to undertake a review."
ISTCs have played a major role in increasing capacity and choice for
NHS patients. The first wave of ISTCs has already ensured that
almost 50,000 patients have received their treatment faster.
The 250,000 procedures the independent sector has delivered have
played a significant part in helping the NHS to eradicate the long
waiting lists that many patients used to endure.
ISTCs have helped bring down the waiting times for cataract
operations to a maximum of 3 months, a target achieved 4 years
earlier than promised. ISTCs are now helping to deliver the
new maximum wait of 18 weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment.
The NHS can only cut waits for MRI scans and other diagnostic tests
by expanding independent as well as NHS provision. NHS diagnostics
provision is expanding, but
the NHS alone does not have the capacity to do this.
Patricia Hewitt added:- "ISTCs are doing an important job and
it is vital that they bring maximum benefits to patients. But we
also need to keep it in perspective. This year, ISTCs will treat
only 3% of those NHS patients having routine elective surgery; by
2008, that proportion will still only be around 7 or 8%. The £1.2
billion spent on independent sector treatments will then represent
just over 1% of an NHS investment totalling over £90 billion."
The Healthcare Commission review will publish its full findings by
the end of the year, but will publish an interim report which will
outline emerging findings.