Recently in School of Dentistry Category

Why do we put fluoride in our water?

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Recognized as one of the top ten great public health achievements of the 20th century by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's not often explained why water fluoridation is deemed so important for our health.

So why do all Minnesota municipal water supplies mandate fluoridation?

We asked Robert Jones, Ph.D., D.D.S., assistant professor and pediatric dentist in the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry to help us understand:

"Fluoride basically gives you a protective coating on the tooth," said Dr. Jones. "It helps protect the enamel - the outer layer or white part of the tooth - that can dissolve from acid. This helps slow tooth decay and improves overall oral health."

Given that naturally occurring bacteria in the human mouth produce acids when exposed to bread, soda, juice and even baby formula; it's important to do something to prevent the demineralization - or breakdown - of tooth enamel.

What would happen if we stopped?

According to Jones, many people who observe the standard oral hygiene recommendations of brushing twice a day, rinsing with mouthwash, flossing and who eat a healthy, balanced diet might not notice a difference.

But those who don't have ideal oral hygiene and diet habits would likely experience significant dental decay in multiple teeth.

"It's similar to what would happen if we increased the speed limit," said Dr. Jones. "Lots of people can drive fast without a problem, but many others would get into accidents. With fluoride, like with speed limits, we're trying to help as many people as possible."

Because it's expensive to fluoridate your own water, fluoridation of city water helps keep our population's pearly-whites devoid of decay.

Photo: Flickr/Jimme/CC.

Dental students get research experience

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Image: MN Daily LogoThe Summer Research Fellowship Program, developed 40 years ago, is a 10-week program for students entering their first or second years in the School of Dentistry. Joel Rudney, School of Dentistry, talks about the competitiveness of the program.

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U of M Expert Perspective: Patients shouldn't fear dental X-rays

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Chances are, if you've been to the dentist recently you've undergone an

The tool helps dentists diagnose current problems and plan treatment for existing ones.

But could dental X-rays increase your risk of developing brain tumors? New research suggests that they could...but many dental experts and the American Dental Association (ADA) aren't so sure.

In a new study published in the latest issue of Cancer, researchers report patients exposed to yearly bitewing examinations (a common form of dental X-ray) may be at a greater risk of developing an intracranial meningioma, a common form of brain tumor.

But while the news can be scary at face value, even the researchers caution that their research isn't condemning dental X-rays. Instead, they're advocating for more moderate X-ray exposure.

According to Mansur Ahmad, Ph.D., associate professor of oral medicine and diagnosis within the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry, the question isn't whether or not radiation causes cancer - we know that it does. The question is which type of cancer radiation can cause.

"Patients shouldn't be scared of dental X-rays, but patients and their doctor can work to cut down on radiation exposure," said Ahmad. "Doctors can also use lead aprons and have strict rules for which patients need X-rays and which do not."

Ahmad recommends dentists look at benefit versus risk when it comes to radiation. X-rays can be useful for some clinical examinations or to help with treatment.

"As dentists we need to ensure we're working with our patients to determine when and why an X-ray may be needed," he said. "We should never be issuing X-rays just because a patient comes in for a visit."

University pediatric dental clinic to open next week

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Image: AHC LogoThe University of Minnesota's dentistry school will open the University of Minnesota Pediatric Dental Clinic on April 3. Dan Shaw, School of Dentistry, explains that the location of the new clinic will hopefully encourage more inter-professional work at the U of M.

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Philanthropy beat: 6,000 more kids see a free dentist

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Image: Star Tribune LogoThe University of Minnesota School of Dentistry recently participated in the 10th annual Give Kids a Smile program. The program offers teeth cleaning, dental exams, fillings, sealants and is part of a national campaign to help children who don't get regular dental care.

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