5 Dental Myths That May Be Hurting Your Health

Research shows that your teeth can speak volumes about your overall health, so it’s important to be informed when it comes to taking care of your mouth.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor for FoxNews.com, recently sat down with Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry in New York City to debunk some common dental myths that could be hurting your health.

Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.

We’ve all heard it growing up:  Sugar will rot your teeth. But while sugar can lead to cavity formation – as well as a variety of other health maladies – it’s not the real culprit when it comes to tooth decay.

“This is a myth in a sense because sugar, while being ‘the gasoline in the tank’ is not the cause of tooth decay. It’s actually acids from bacteria that have gone to the dark side,” Curatola told FoxNews.com. “We talk about good bugs and bad bugs; bad bugs are actually an unhealthy expression of natural bacteria in the mouth.”

“Bad bugs” are formed when you digest carbohydrates. Refined sugar is an example, but other carbohydrates can include healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and grains. These “bad bugs” produce acid in your mouth that, when combined with saliva, result in plaque formation.

Teeth whitening will damage your enamel.

The key ingredients in over-the-counter whitening products are hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which work as oxidizing agents to remove stains on the surface of the enamel. White strips, trays and pastes meant for at-home use usually contain about 3 to 10 percent of these active ingredients and are generally considered safe. Curatola noted as with everything, moderation is important.

“Really, the safest teeth whitening is done under the supervision of a dentist or a dental hygienist in a dental office … There’s a lot of over-the-counter products that can damage your enamel,” said Curatola. “If the product is too acidic, the product is too strong …  Overuse or misuse of these products can cause the enamel to get fragile and even more porous. These are the kinds of things that really need more regulation, and they can be damaging, but teeth whitening by itself is a safe treatment.”

One of the most common side effects of whitening your teeth, whether done in a dentist’s office or at home, is tooth sensitivity. Research out of Ohio State University College of Dentistry has shown that some enamel loss is possible when using bleaching agents, but sometimes, enamel has been found to remineralize itself over time.

Silver fillings don’t need to be replaced.

One of the most hotly debated issues among dentists these days is whether or not old, silver amalgam fillings in the mouths of so many Americans are safe.

“A lot of patients are not even informed that silver-colored fillings are actually 52 percent mercury,” said Curatola. “There’s also research – and it’s proven that mercury leeches out over time from these silver fillings – more if you drink hot liquids and chew things. My opinion is that I don’t think any amount of mercury is good, and especially if [these fillings are] breaking down, they should be replaced.”

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that at certain levels has been linked to autoimmune diseases, neurological issues, chronic diseases and even mental disorders.  One concern among dental professionals is that people with amalgam fillings who grind their teeth, chew gum and drink hot or carbonated drinks could be exposed to a dangerous level of mercury vapors.

Mouthwash with alcohol is good to use.

The use of mouthwash containing alcohol has been linked with oral cancer since the 1970s. But more recent research has questioned the association, citing that many study participants who frequently use alcohol-containing mouthwash were drinkers and smokers, making it hard to establish a definitive cause-and-effect outcome. But Curatola warns that frequent use of these mouthwashes can lead to other dental problems.

“Mouthwash should not have alcohol,” said Curatola. “Alcohol is dehydrating and denaturing to this natural ecology of the mouth called the oral microbiome.”

Wisdom teeth serve no purpose.

Wisdom teeth are a product of evolution that got their name from the time that they appear in your mouth – usually between the ages of 17 to 25. It is thought that the coarse food our ancestors ate caused the jaw to grow larger and stronger, allowing for more teeth in our mouths. But over time, our jaws began to shrink to make way for our growing brains, leaving many people with overcrowded mouths and painful impactions when their wisdom teeth break through.

“Wisdom teeth are called vestigial organs, like your tonsils and your appendix,” said Curatola. “I don’t think every child should have their wisdom teeth ripped out, but I do believe that we are finding an intraspecies evolution where wisdom teeth are not having room to erupt, and if they are malpositioned, they can cause problems [like] cysts in the jaw, infections and pain.”

If your wisdom teeth are not causing you any problems, you may want to think about leaving them where they are. Research out of Japan shows that the pulp inside your molars contains stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow. Some experts say that banking those stem cells could lead to the ability to regrow teeth in the future.

Asthma May Be Misdiagnosed In Many Adults

As many as one in three adults diagnosed with asthma may not actually have the chronic lung disorder, a Canadian study suggests.

Researchers did lung function tests on 613 adults who had been diagnosed with asthma within the past five years. If participants took asthma medicines, researchers gradually weaned them off the drugs over four clinic visits to see how well their lungs worked without treatment.

The evaluations ruled out asthma in 203 of the participants, or 33 percent. After one year of follow-up, 181 of these people still did too well on lung tests to be diagnosed with asthma, researchers report in JAMA.

“We were able to get these patients completely off asthma medications, and they did well in follow up over the next year despite remaining off medications,” said lead study author Dr. Shawn Aaron of the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

“Some of these patients were clearly misdiagnosed to begin with, and they had other conditions other than asthma, and some did have asthma but it was in remission,” Aaron added by email.

Asthma can be difficult to diagnose because not all patients have the same triggers or symptoms, which can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, cough and wheezing. Some chronic asthma patients experience periods of remission and relapse.

For the current study, researchers had all of the patients monitor symptoms and do breathing tests at home to see how fast air comes out of their lungs, a measurement known as peak expiratory flow.

All of the participants also did bronchial challenge tests. For these assessments, patients inhaled a medication that causes the bronchial tubes to constrict, simulating conditions that can cause asthma to see how well airways react.

Each patient also did spirometry tests that measure lung function by seeing how much air people inhale, how much they exhale and how fast they exhale.

Participants in whom a diagnosis of current asthma was ultimately ruled out were followed up clinically with repeated bronchial challenge tests over one year.

Among those misdiagnosed with asthma, 12 people, or 2 percent of the participants, had serious conditions other than asthma, like heart disease and pulmonary hypertension, the study found. Still others were found to have conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or anxiety-related hyperventilation rather than asthma.

Those who were misdiagnosed were less likely to have had airflow limitation tests when they were originally diagnosed, compared with participants who had their original asthma diagnosis confirmed in the current study.

For patients who had asthma ruled out, 90 percent had asthma medications safely stopped for one year after being weaned off drugs for the study.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only followed patients for a total of 15 months, which isn’t long enough to rule out the possibility that some patients in remission might have asthma symptoms in the future, the authors note. The study also excluded patients using long-term oral corticosteroids, leaving only people with milder forms of asthma to participated.

Still, the study reaffirms the need for patients who have been diagnosed with asthma to have their diagnosis confirmed with objective lung function testing, particularly spirometry, before being started on lifelong therapy, Dr. Alan Kaplan, a researcher at the University of Toronto who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“The most important potential harm of misdiagnosis of asthma is not treating the patient’s actual disease,” said Dr. Helen Hollingsworth of Boston University, co-author of an accompanying editorial.

“For other patients, not recognizing that asthma is in remission, can lead to taking unnecessary medication,” Hollingsworth added by email. “While the adverse effects of asthma medication are minimal, no one wants to take unnecessary medication.”

Cancer Spread Cut By 75% In Tests

The deadly spread of cancer around the body has been cut by three-quarters in animal experiments, say scientists.

Tumours can “seed” themselves elsewhere in the body and this process is behind 90% of cancer deaths.

The mouse study, published in Nature, showed altering the immune system slowed the spread of skin cancers to the lungs.

Cancer Research UK said the early work gave new insight into how tumours spread and may lead to new treatments.

The spread of cancer – known as metastasis – is a fight between a rapidly mutating cancer and the rest of the body.

The team at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge was trying to figure out what affected tumour spread in the body.

Researchers created 810 sets of genetically modified lab mice to discover which sections of the DNA were involved in the body resisting a cancer’s spread.

The animals were injected with melanomas (skin cancer) and the team counted the number of tumours that formed in the lung.

Their hunt led them to discover 23 sections of DNA, or genes, that made it either easier or harder for a cancer to spread.

Many of them were involved in controlling the immune system.

Targeting one gene – called Spns2 – led to a three-quarters reduction in tumours spreading to the lungs.

‘Interesting biology’

“It regulated the balance of immune cells within the lung,” Dr David Adams, one of the team, told the BBC News website.

“It changes the balance of cells that play a role in killing tumour cells and those that switch off the immune system.”

The field of immunotherapy – harnessing the power of the immune system to fight cancer – has delivered dramatic results for some patients.

A rare few with a terminal diagnosis have seen all signs of cancer disappear from their body, although the drugs still fail to work in many patients.

Dr Adams said: “We’ve learnt some interesting new biology that we might be able to use – it’s told us this gene is involved in tumour growth.”

Drugs that target Spns2 could produce the same cancer-slowing effect but that remains a distant prospect.

Dr Justine Alford, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This study in mice gives a new insight into the genes that play a role in cancer spreading and may highlight a potential way to treat cancer in the future.

“Cancer that has spread is tough to treat, so research such as this is vital in the search for ways to tackle this process.”

Doctor’s Anti-Vaccine Claims Ignite Pr Firestorm For Cleveland Clinic

A doctor at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic sparked an online uproar when he published an article Friday filled with anti-vaccine rhetoric, including the widely debunked claim that vaccines are linked to autism. Physicians took to Twitter to call the article “vile” and “Post-truth medicine” and demand whether the clinic endorsed its doctor’s views.

Dr. Daniel Neides, a family doctor and the director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, wrote on a blog on the news site cleveland.com that preservatives and other ingredients in vaccines are dangerous and are likely behind the increase in diagnosed cases of neurological diseases such as autism — a claim that has long been discredited by researchers.

“Does the vaccine burden — as has been debated for years — cause autism? I don’t know and will not debate that here. What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES,” he wrote. Adjuvants are added to vaccines to prompt a stronger immune response.

“Some of the vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of childhood communicable diseases, like meningitis and pneumonia,” he continued. “That is great news. But not at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates.”

Neides’s wellness institute provides “world-class medical care and quality wellness programs to change unhealthy behaviors and to make healthy life choices,” according to its website. But to the wider medical community, the claims that Neides espoused did not promote “healthy life choices.” Instead, they said these statements were downright dangerous.

Dr. Vinay Prasad, a hematologist-oncologist at the Oregon Health and Sciences University, expressed disbelief on Twitter:

In an email to STAT, Prasad added, “That article … contains many of the tired, unsupported, irrational concerns about pediatric vaccines, as well as generally unsupported thoughts on ‘toxin’ exposure. Frankly, it is a little surprising it is written by a doctor, and not someone on the fringe, who lacks basic science and medical training.”

Dr. Jeffrey Matthews, chair of the University of Chicago’s Department of Surgery, tweeted:

Scientists and doctors were horrified about the misinformation contained in the article, especially given that the source is affiliated with a such a prestigious medical institution. A spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic told STAT on Saturday that Neides “will not be doing an interview.”

“He wrote this opinion piece on his own and it does not reflect the position of the Cleveland Clinic whatsoever, and we strongly support vaccinations and the protection of patients and employees,” said Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate communications for the medical center.

Many doctors saw the post as an embarrassment for the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Benjamin Mazer, a resident physician in pathology at Yale New Haven Hospital who tweeted that the article was “one of the most vile, false things I have ever read by a doctor,” said in an interview that it wasn’t an isolated event.

“This is really part of a larger movement that distrusts mainstream medicine, distrusts mainstream public health, and really trades in conspiracy theories,” he told STAT. “This article is a really prime example of that. It’s just a shame that it’s a physician spreading these conspiracy theories because people naturally trust physicians.”

He was especially appalled at the misinformation that Neides was spreading about hepatitis B vaccines, which, Mazer said, “have prevented thousands of deaths.”

Non-clinicians were just as worried.

“When I see opinion pieces that stoke fears about the truly minuscule amounts of formaldehyde (a naturally occurring metabolite in every one of us) in vaccines or suggest that there is still some ‘debate’ as to whether or not vaccines and autism are linked, it sets off alarm bells and huge red flags in my head,” Michael Wosnick, the former scientific director of the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, told STAT by email.

Skin Cancer Drop In Northeast Bucks Rising Rates Elsewhere

A decline in melanoma cases and deaths in Northeast states bucks a national trend for the deadliest skin cancer and may reflect benefits of strong prevention program.

That’s according to a new study comparing regional U.S. data from 2003 and 2013. The researchers note that the Melanoma Foundation of New England has revved up programs including putting sunscreen dispensers in public places in Boston and other New England cities. Overexposure to sunlight increases risk for melanoma.

Nationally, melanoma cases have steadily increased over the past two decades. The American Cancer Society estimates that when 2016 cases are tallied, more than 76,000 Americans will have been diagnosed during the year. U.S. melanoma deaths also have risen.

The new study was published online Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology.

Hip Pain May Be ‘Hangover From Evolution’

Scientists at the University of Oxford say a hangover from evolution could help explain why humans get so much shoulder, hip and knee pain.

And if current trends continue they predict the humans of the future could be at even greater risk.

They studied 300 specimens from different species spanning 400 million years to see how bones changed subtly over millennia.

The changes came as man began standing up straight on two legs.

Other researchers have noticed similar evolutionary quirks in humans. Some people prone to lower back problems, for example, could have spines closer in shape to those of our nearest ape relative – the chimpanzee.

‘Bizarre arrangement’

Dr Paul Monk, who led the research at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, was interested to explore why patients in his clinic came in with similar orthopaedic problems.

“We see certain things very commonly in hospital clinics – pain in the shoulder with reaching overhead, pain in the front of the knee, arthritis of the hip, and in younger people we see some joints that have a tendency to pop out.

“We wondered how on earth we have ended up with this bizarre arrangement of bones and joints that allows people to have these problems.

“And it struck us that the way to answer that is to look backwards through evolution.”

The team took detailed CT scans of 300 ancient specimens housed at the Natural History Museum in London, in Oxford, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Bringing the data together, they were able to create a library of 3D models, and spot changes to the shapes of single bones over millions of years.

As species evolved from moving around on four legs to standing up on two, for example, researchers say the so-called neck of the thigh bone grew broader to support the extra weight.

And studies show that the thicker the neck of the thigh bone, the more likely it is that arthritis will develop.

Scientists say this is one potential reason why humans are susceptible to so much hip pain.

The team then used their data to hazard a guess at the shape of human bones 4,000 years in the future – although they admit there are many uncertainties in future times that could not be accounted for.

Dr Monk said: “What is interesting is if we try and move these trends forward, the shape that is coming has an even broader neck and we are trending to more and more arthritis.”

In the shoulder, scientists found that a natural gap – which tendons and blood vessels normally pass through – got narrower over time.

The narrower space makes it more difficult for tendons to move and might help explain why some people experience pain when they reach overhead, say the scientists.

Using these predictions, the researchers suggest joint replacements of the future will have to be re-designed to accommodate the evolving shapes.

But they say it is not all bad news – the right physiotherapy and working on maintaining a good posture can help mitigate some of the downsides of our design.

Final Test Results Confirm Experimental Ebola Vaccine Highly Effective

Final test results confirm an experimental Ebola vaccine is highly effective, a major milestone that could help prevent the spread of outbreaks like the one that killed thousands in West Africa.

Scientists have struggled to develop an Ebola vaccine over the years, and this is the first one proven to work. Efforts were ramped up after the infectious disease caused a major outbreak, beginning in 2013 in Guinea and spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. About 11,300 people died.

The World Health Organization, which acknowledged shortcomings in its response to the West Africa outbreak, led the study of the vaccine, which was developed by the Canadian government and is now licensed to the U.S.-based Merck & Co. Results were published Thursday.

Merck is expected to seek regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe sometime next year.

The experimental vaccine was given to about 5,800 people last year in Guinea, as the virus was waning. All had some contact with a new Ebola patient. They got the vaccine right away or three weeks later. After a 10-day waiting period, no Ebola cases developed in those immediately vaccinated, 23 cases turned up among those with delayed vaccination.

The Lancet paper published Thursday mostly crystallizes what was already largely known from interim results released last year. The vaccine proved so effective that the study was stopped midway so that everyone exposed to Ebola in Guinea could be immunized.

“I really believe that now we have a tool which would allow (us) to control a new outbreak of Ebola of the Zaire strain,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general who was the study’s lead author. “It’s the first vaccine for which efficacy has been shown.”

She noted that other Ebola vaccines are underdoing testing, and that a vaccine is also needed to protect against a second strain, Sudan.

The virus first turned up in Africa in 1976 and had caused periodic outbreaks mostly in central Africa, but never with results as deadly as the West Africa outbreak. Many previous vaccine attempts have failed. Among the hurdles: the sporadic nature of outbreaks and funding shortages.

Here Are The States With The Lowest And Highest Diabetes Rates

Diabetes is on the rise in the United States, and a new poll looks at where the disease is most and least common.

In the poll, from Gallup-Healthways, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 176,000 Americans in all 50 states in 2015. The participants were asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with diabetes in their lifetime.

The three states with the lowest rates of diabetes were Utah, Rhode Island and Colorado. In these states, 7.5 to 8 percent of the survey participants said they had diabetes. In contrast, Alabama and West Virginia had the highest rates of diabetes, with about 16 percent of the participants in those two states saying they had been diagnosed with the disease.

The poll also looked at the rate of diabetes in cities nationwide. The city with the lowest rate of diabetes was Boulder, Colorado, where slightly less than 5 percent of residents said they had diabetes, followed by Bellingham, Washington, where about 6 percent said they had diabetes. The two cities with the highest rates of diabetes were Mobile, Alabama, and Charleston, West Virginia, where more than 17 percent of residents said they had diabetes.

The results were published Wednesday (Nov. 30) in a report from Gallup-Healthways.

“Lower rates of diabetes could point to citizens of a particular state or community practicing healthier behaviors, which, in turn, could lead to better health outcomes and lower incidence of chronic conditions,” Gallup-Healthways said in its report. “But a lower rate could also signal underdiagnoses” of diabetes, the report said.

The overall rate of diabetes in the United States in 2016 was 11.5 percent, up from 10.6 percent in 2008, Gallup-Healthways said. (The 2016 data is based on a separate poll conducted from Jan. 1 through Nov. 6 of 2016, according to Gallup-Healthways.) That means there were about 2.2 million more Americans with diabetes in 2016 than in 2008, Gallup-Healthways said.

The increase in diabetes has paralleled a rise in obesity , which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In 2016, about 28 percent of Americans were obese, which is a nearly 3 percentage-point increase from the rate in 2008, Gallup-Healthways said. Type 2 diabetes has been linked with obesity. Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder and is not linked with unhealthy lifestyle or diet choices. The Gallup-Healthways survey did not distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.