Detecting demineralisation in the digital age – Bruce Vernon

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  Posted by: The Probe      16th February 2018

The consequences of demineralisation on the enamel of the teeth can be disastrous if it is left untreated. We have seen the effects of this in young members of the population, between the ages of 16 to 34, who have been observed with the highest prevalence of primary dental caries – and it seems one in ten adults are guilty of forgetting to brush their teeth regularly, further exacerbating the demineralisation process that could irrevocably damage their teeth.[i] These figures present damning evidence that a lack of care for oral health is having a substantial effect on the young population in Britain.  

As dentists are now aware, the downward trend of childhood tooth decay continues to spiral out of control, and modern advances in dentistry are rising to challenge this issue in earnest.[ii] Despite this, it is interesting to observe that with all the ground-breaking technology of our digitally dominated age, the young adults of Britain still struggle to care about and maintain the health of their teeth. In fact, research has suggested that video gaming could be responsible for poor oral health among adolescents – with the study indicating a correlation between prolonged exposure to computer screens, and the consumption of highly sugary snacks and drinks, which, as we know, facilitates demineralisation.[iii] Hence, gamers are more than twice as likely to suffer the effects of dental demineralisation than those with more active lifestyles.[iv]

Additionally, it has been reported that a staggering 97% of the population under the age of 25 currently uses a smartphone device in their daily lives.[v] Healthcare professionals have already witnessed the detrimental physical and mental effects of technology overuse in patients as they struggle with obesity, complications with vision and muscular strain.[vi] The dental profession should equally acknowledge that the exaggerated use of technology may fuel a poor diet of extremely sugary and acidic food and drinks, which if left to demineralise the teeth, can eventually lead to dental caries. This is important to consider, particularly as young people often seek an intense sugar fix to boost their energy in front of the TV, while on their smartphone, or when playing on the games console.

We are already familiar with the knowledge that demineralisation, if diagnosed too late or left untreated, can lead to cavitation of the tooth and exposure of the sensitive inner structure. Other negative effects can occur as a result of this, including infections, tooth loss and the formation of abscesses.[vii] Until they start to experience toothache, patients often fail to appreciate the consequence of demineralisation, or are simply unaware of the causes and therefore prevention techniques. As such, dental professionals must do everything they can to educate patients on the importance of brushing twice a day and attending regular dental check-ups. This is no easy task for dentists who may find it difficult to engage with the youth of Britain, especially those who are too absorbed in digital technology to pay much heed to lectures in dental hygiene. It is, therefore, crucial that the profession finds original and creative ways to communicate information with patients in order to take effective preventive measures against the possible effects of demineralisation.

Some of the latest innovations in dental health technology include games that can be used to motivate children to maintain good oral health from an early age. There are, likewise, applications appealing to adults of all ages that can help them develop a better technique of brushing their teeth. Digital radiography is also helping dentists to explain complex and technical dental issues to their patients in a way that is more constructive than that of traditional methods. Most modern radiographic systems and sophisticated intraoral scanners are being utilised in practice as a way of giving patients a visual representation of the condition of their teeth – dental scans are digitised in real-time so that they are available to review immediately. This can be incredibly useful to indicate to patients what exactly is wrong with their teeth, so that practitioners can have a more informed discussion about appropriate treatments.

In the past, methods of detecting early mineral changes in the teeth have been subject to errors with less than perfect reliability and validity.[viii] It is often too late for anything but restorative treatment to be carried out by the time practitioners are able to identify signs of active demineralisation, indicative of early caries. However, advanced visual technologies are emerging on the dental market that will improve the precision and efficacy of diagnostics, and encourage enhanced preventive care. The state-of-the-art CALCIVIS® imaging system uses bioluminescence (light-emission) to detect demineralisation on the surface of the tooth. This system allows dentists to undertake and communicate simple preventive treatments to patients, including remineralisation therapy.

Technology can be both a blessing and a curse, particularly when we consider Britain’s youth in relation to the risks of heavy sugar consumption following bad habits, fuelled by the digital revolution of our time. However, visual and interactive elements of digital technology can be used to effectively engage with patients about the importance of good dental health – both patient and practitioner are better able to see more clearly the effects of demineralisation and react to it, thus, improving clinical care.

 

For more information visit www.CALCIVIS.com or call 0131 658 5152

 

 

[1] National Health Service. (2011) 2: Disease and related disorders – a report from the Adult Dental Health Survey 2009. Link: http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB01086. [Last accessed: 17th November 2017].

[1] Public Health England. (2016) National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of five-year-old children 2015: A report on the prevalence and severity of dental decay. Link: http://www.nwph.net/dentalhealth/survey-results%205(14_15).aspx. [Last accessed: 17th November 2017].

[1] Animated-Teeth.com. (2017) The chemistry of tooth decay (How and why cavities form). Link: https://www.animated-teeth.com/tooth_decay/t2_tooth_decay_caries.htm. [Last accessed: 23rd November 2017].

[1] Poss, J, Marshall T, and Qian F, Weber-Gasparoni K, Skotowski, C. (2010) Video Gaming Teenagers: An Examination of Diet and Caries. Conference Paper AADR Annual Meeting. Link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266778891_Video_Gaming_Teenagers_An_Examination_of_Diet_and_Caries. [Last accessed: 17th November.17].

[1] Google. (2017) Consumer Barometer: The Connected Consumer Survey – Percentage of people who use a smartphone. Link: https://www.consumerbarometer.com/en/trending/?countryCode=UK&category=TRN-AGE-UNDER-25. [Last accessed: 17th November 2017].

[1] Digital Responsibility. (2016) Digital Responsibility: Taking Control of Your Digital Life – Health and Technology. Link: http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/health-and-technology/. [Last accessed: 17th November 2017].

[1] The Happy Tooth. (2017) How an Abscessed Tooth can Damage Your Overall Health. Link: http://happytoothnc.com/abscessed-tooth-can-damage-health/. [Last accessed: 17.11.17].

[1] Baelum, V, Hintze H, Wenzel A, Danielsen B. and Nyvad B. (2012). Implications of caries diagnostic strategies for clinical management decisions. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. 40(3): 257-266. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22103270 [Last Accessed 27th November 2017]

 


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