Ancient Oral Health: How Dental Plaque Reveals Hominids’ Diet

Ancient Oral Health: How Dental Plaque Reveals Hominids' DietNewswise is reporting on a 2 million-year-old mishap that befell two early members of the human family tree that is providing the most robust evidence to date of what at least one pair of hominins ate.

A team of researchers including Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, disclose their findings today in the journal Nature.

Almost 2 million years ago, an elderly female and young male of the species Australopithecus sediba fell into a sinkhole, where their remains were quickly buried in sediment.

In 2010, anthropologist Lee Berger of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his colleagues described the remains of this newly characterized creature.

Now a team of scientists has studied the teeth of these specimens, which proved to have unique properties because of how the hominins died.

“We have a very unusual type of preservation,” Ungar said. “The state of the teeth was pristine.”

Since the two individuals were buried underground and quickly encased in sediment, parts of the teeth were even preserved with a pocket of air surrounding them.

Because of this, the researchers were able to perform dental microwear analyses of the tooth surfaces and high-resolution isotope studies of the tooth enamel on these well-preserved teeth. In addition, because the teeth had not been exposed to the elements since death, they also harbored another thing not discovered before in early hominins – areas of preserved tartar buildup around the edges of the teeth.

In this plaque, the scientists found phytoliths, bodies of silica from plants eaten almost 2 million years ago by these early hominids.

“It’s the first time we’ve been able to look at these three things in one or two specimens,” Ungar said.

Using the isotope analysis, the dental microwear analysis and the phytolith analysis, the researchers closed in on the diet of these two individuals, and what they found differs from other early human ancestors from that period. The microwear on the teeth showed more pits and complexity than most other australopiths before it.

Like the microwear, the isotopes also showed that the animals were consuming mostly parts of trees, shrubs or herbs rather than grasses.

The phytoliths gave an even clearer picture of what the animals were consuming, including bark, leaves, sedges, grasses, fruit and palm.

“We get a sense of an animal that looked like it was taking advantage of forest resources,” Ungar said. This kind of food consumption differs from what had been seen in evidence from other australopiths.

“They come out looking like giraffes in terms of their tooth chemistry. A lot of the other creatures there were not eating such forest resources.”

“These findings tell us a really nice story about these two individuals,” Ungar said. “It’s fascinating that we found something that went into the mouth of these creatures that was still in the mouth of these creatures.”

Ungar conducted the microwear analysis. Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany; Marion Bamford of the University of Witwatersrand; and Lloyd Rossouw of the National Museum Bloemfontein in South Africa conducted the analysis of the phytoliths. Benjamin Passey of Johns Hopkins University; Matt Sponheimer and Paul Sandberg of the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Darryl de Ruiter of Texas A&M conducted the isotope analysis. Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand oversaw the project.

See Newswise article: First Plant Material Found on Ancient Hominins’ Teeth

Oral Health Research Claims High-fluoride Massage Prevents Tooth Decay by 400%

Oral Health Research Claims High-fluoride Massage Prevents Tooth Decay by 400%New oral health research claims that massaging teeth with a high-fluoride toothpaste  increases protection against tooth decay by 400%, according to a report by Anna Nordström, a dentist and researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

A new brand of toothpaste was launched 8 years ago in Sweden with more than 3 times as much fluoride as standard toothpaste.

The toothpaste is available to the public without prescription and is aimed primarily at those at high risk for tooth decay.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy have now performed the first scientific evaluation of the effect of this so-called “high-fluoride toothpaste.”  The study has resulted in a new method that offers dental patients 4 times the level of protection from fluoride.

In the study, 16 volunteers tested a variety of brushing techniques, using either high-fluoride or standard toothpaste, and brushing either 2 or 3 times a day.

“The study revealed that those who used a high-fluoride toothpaste three times a day had four times better fluoride protection in the mouth than those who used standard toothpaste twice a day,” asserts researcher Anna Nordström from the Institute of Odontology at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

Also tested was a new method of applying toothpaste developed in collaboration with professor Dowen Birkhed, which involves rubbing the toothpaste onto the teeth with a finger.

“This ‘massage’ method proved to be at least as effective as a third brushing in increasing the amount of fluoride in the mouth,” stressed Anna Nordström . “Rubbing the front of your teeth with toothpaste can be an easy way of giving your teeth a third “shot” of fluoride during the day, after lunch for example. But this should not replace brushing with a fluoride toothpaste morning and evening – it’s an extra teeth cleaning).”

Brushing with fluoride toothpaste continues to play a major role in combating tooth decay, and there is strong scientific evidence that daily use of fluoride toothpaste has a pronounced preventive effect.

The study Effect of a Third Application of Toothpaste (1450 and 5000 ppm F), including a “massage” method on fluoride retention and pH drop in plaque was published in Acta Odontologica Scandinavia.

The researchers offered the following 4 tips for dental patients for successfully fighting tooth decay  —

1.  Use toothpaste at least twice a day, after breakfast and before going to bed.
2.  If necessary, brush a third time or rub toothpaste on the teeth instead.
3.  If you have problems with cavities, choose a toothpaste with a higher fluoride content.
4.   Avoid rinsing out the toothpaste with water.

Dentists, what do you think of this oral health study and how massaging fluoride toothpaste on to teeth increases the effectiveness in fighting tooth decay?

For more on this story see: New Massage Method Quadruples Protection Against Tooth Decay

Science Friday: Better Healing After Dental Implants

Science Friday: Better Healing After Dental ImplantsRestoring the front teeth of dental patients after a traumatic injury poses a particular challenge— both biologically, functionally, and aesthetically.

Even when all the procedures of successful dental implants are followed, healing of tissues can still be unpredictable.

One approach to improving the outcome of this type of implant is the use of blood platelet concentrates.

The current issue of the Journal of Oral Implantology reports the case study of a dental patient who had fractured an incisor during a sport-related accident. An all-inclusive dental procedure was performed to both extract the broken tooth and insert a dental implant. Additionally, a biomaterial of leukocyte and platelet-rich fibrin was used as part of the treatment, as reported by Newswire.

Restoring a fractured maxillary anterior tooth—one located in the upper front of the mouth—through dental implant surgery requires a number of steps.

The fractured root must be extracted, residual bone preserved, the implant correctly positioned, and the soft tissue properly contoured around the implant.

However, the dental implant still requires successful healing to complete the process.

Leukocyte and platelet-rich fibrin stimulates the healing process. Strong fibrin membranes enriched with cells and platelet growth factors make a biomaterial that is simple and inexpensive to use. Taking only 15 minutes to prepare, the biomaterial is a practical and effective application to use in implant dentistry.

Its antihemorrhage properties are well-suited for this surgery.

In the case study, the use of this fibrin meant that no incisions or sutures were needed, which allowed optimal healing conditions. Positive healing characteristics were noticed two days after the surgery; at 7 days the gingival aesthetic profile was well-defined.

At 6 months, a satisfactory final result of the surgery was evident.

2 years later, the restoration has proved to be stable and aesthetic — resulting in a much better healing process for the dental patient after dental implant surgery.

To view the full report see: The Use of Leukocyte and Platelet-Rich Fibrin During Immediate Postextractive Implantation and Loading for the Esthetic Replacement of a Fractured Maxillary Central Incisor

Science Friday: Saliva Test May Help Dentists Detect Oral Cancer Sooner

Science Friday: Saliva Test May Help Dentists Detect Oral Cancer SoonerMichigan State University surgeon Barry Wenig is teaming up with a Lansing-area dental benefits firm on a clinical trial to create a simple, cost-effective saliva test to detect oral cancer, a breakthrough that would drastically improve early oral cancer screening.

It is estimated that oral cancer kills one person, every hour, every single day.

Trimira’s Vice President Jerry Trzeciak states that “Oral cancer is typically detected by a doctor, not a dentist, by which time it is usually a late-stage diagnosis,” he said. “In fact, 40 percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer will be dead in five years and 78% diagnosed with Stage IV, late-stage cancer will be dead in five years. Early detection of oral cancer would improve the survival rate to 80 to 90%.”

Trzeciak noted that fewer than 15% of those who visit a dentist get screened regularly; rarely is the best available technology used.

“When you look at the five-year mortality rate for oral cancer, it’s scary,” Trzeciak said at the AAOMS 91st Annual Meeting in Toronto. “Oral cancer is more deadly than the more familiar cancers: breast, cervical, and prostate, and also more deadly than liver, kidney, thyroid, or colon cancers.”

Oral cancer is growing at double-digit rates, despite declines in alcohol and tobacco use. That is due to HPV-16 and -18 spread through all forms of sex, but particularly oral sex. For that reason, oral cancer is increasingly showing up in the young adult population. The fastest-growing group is females in their forties.

According to the Times, Wenig, a professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Surgery and lead investigator on the project, is working with Delta Dental of Michigan’s Research and Data Institute to compile study data and recruit dentists.

The study will enrol 100-120 patients with white lesions or growths in their mouths and tonsil areas to test as part of the clinical trial.

Wenig and his team will be looking for certain biomarkers previously identified by researchers at UCLA; the biomarkers have been shown in studies to confirm the presence of oral cancer.

By creating a simple saliva test which could identify the biomarker’s presence, physicians and dentists would know which patients need treatment and which ones could avoid needless and invasive biopsies.

Wenig is collaborating with PeriRx, a Pennsylvania company that will sponsor upcoming trials with the Food and Drug Administration.

For more on this story see: Simple Saliva Test to Detect Oral Cancer Early

Science Friday: Will Better Cavity Filling Technology Make Dental Implants Obsolete?

Will Better Cavity Filling Technology Make Dental Implants Obsolete?Will dental implants be a thing of the past with the help of new dental technologies?

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry has announced that scientists using nanotechology have created the first cavity-filling composite that kills harmful bacteria and regenerates tooth structure lost to bacterial decay, as reported by Newswire.

“Rather than just limiting tooth decay with conventional fillings, the new composite is a revolutionary dental weapon to control harmful bacteria, which co-exist in the natural colony of microorganisms in the mouth,” says professor Huakun (Hockin) Xu, PhD, MS.

“Tooth decay means that the mineral content in the tooth has been dissolved by the organic acids secreted by bacteria residing in biofilms or plaques on the tooth surface. These organisms convert carbohydrates to acids that decrease the minerals in the tooth structure,” says Xu, director of the Division of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering in the School’s Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry.

After a dentist drills out a decayed tooth, the cavity still contains residual bacteria. Xu says it is not possible for a dentist to remove all the damaged tissue, so it’s important to neutralize the harmful effects of the bacteria, which is just what the new nanocomposites are able to do.

The researchers also have built antibacterial agents into primer used first by dentists to prepare a drilled-out cavity and into adhesives that dentists spread into the cavity to make a filling stick tight to the tissue of the tooth.

“The reason we want to get the antibacterial agents also into primers and adhesives is that these are the first things that cover the internal surfaces of the tooth cavity and flow into tiny dental tubules inside the tooth,” says Xu. The main reason for failures in tooth restorations and secondary caries or decay at the restoration margins. “Applying the new primer and adhesive will kill the residual bacteria,” he says.

Fillings made from the School of Dentistry’s new nanocomposite, with antibacterial primer and antibacterial adhesive, should last longer than the typical five to 10 years, though the scientists have not thoroughly tested longevity. Xu says a key component of the new nanocomposite and nano-structured adhesive is calcium phosphate nanoparticles that regenerate tooth minerals. The antibacterial component has a base of quaternary ammonium and silver nanoparticles along with a high pH.

The alkaline pH limits acid production by tooth bacteria.

“The bottom line is we are continuing to improve these materials and making them stronger in their antibacterial and remineralizing capacities as well as increasing their longevity,” Xu says.

The new dental products have been laboratory tested using biofilms from saliva of volunteers. The Xu team is planning to next test its products in animal teeth and in human volunteers in collaboration with the Federal University of Ceara in Brazil.

The University of Maryland has patents pending on the nanocomposite and the primer and adhesive technologies, according to Nancy Cowger, PhD, licensing officer with the University’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT).

Licensing opportunities are available, she says, and potential development partners are invited to contact the OTT at www.ord.umaryland.edu/ott

Source: Dental Fillings That Kill Bacteria and Re-Mineralize the Tooth

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