In Detail

Dental news and notes.

Illustration by Shaw Nielsen

A Father’s Fight
A Virginia dentist declares war on opioid abuse.  

Responding to the national opioid crisis, the American Dental Association earlier this year began promoting a new policy supporting mandates on prescription limits and continuing education. But here in Virginia, Dr. Omar Abubaker, chairman of oral and facial surgery at VCU’s School of Dentistry, has long been on the forefront of changing prescription laws after losing his 21-year-old son Adam to a heroin overdose four years ago. “It is estimated that 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription pain medication,” Abubaker says. “Dentists prescribe about 8 percent of all immediate-release opioids, shouldering their share of the responsibility for the nationwide opioid epidemic.” To raise awareness, Abubaker utilizes his educational platform to train dental students and dentists on how to properly prescribe opioids. Just last year, he trained more than 500 dentists on addiction and new opioid prescription guidelines from the state and by the ADA. “Opioid prescribers, and society as a whole, must acknowledge that we all are a part of the problem and it is our collective responsibility to help fix it,” he says.

Gotta Brush ‘Em
New research from Salem shows oral hygiene can prevent pneumonia.

Research led by Shannon Munro, a nurse researcher at the VA Medical Center in Salem, shows that brushing patients’ teeth prevents the spread of oral bacteria into the lungs and can drastically reduce cases of pneumonia. Based on this research, hospitals nationwide are adopting oral hygiene regimens that will require twice-daily brushing, benefitting patients at risk for pneumonia—including those in ICU and maternity wards, as well as residents at assisted living facilities.

Just Needle It
Tackling dental anxiety with acupuncture. 

If the thought of visiting the dentist makes you feel anxious, you’re not alone. Dental anxiety affects 30 percent of adults. But researchers at the University of York believe that acupuncture may be the cure for your fears. In a review of six trials with 800 patients, they found that this ancient Chinese medical practice reduces dental anxiety. That leaves just one question: What if you’re scared of needles? 

Red wine prevents gum disease and tooth decay, study shows. 

The health benefits of red wine have been the subject of debate for some time, from lowering the risk of heart disease to attacking cancer cells (though you won’t find many wine aficionados arguing these points). Researchers in Spain just added another reason to the list, linking the polyphenol found in red wine to a reduction of bad bacteria causing dental plaque, cavities and gum disease. Let’s raise a glass to that. 

3D-printed dentures fight off infections. 

Just a decade ago, no one would have thought dentists could get dentures from a printer, but today, researchers at the University at Buffalo are doing just that. Containing drugs designed to fight off infections, the 3D-printed dentures—which fit more precisely and are less costly than conventional ones made from wax grips—include microscopic capsules that periodically release an antifungal medication. Wearers don’t even have to remove their dentures to keep their mouths clean.

Illustration by Shaw Nielsen

Did You Know?

Virginia’s 2018 ranking in the U.S.for best overall oral health.


Most Fluoridated Water: Virginia is #8 in the nation, while Washington, D.C., tops the list.


Percentage of Virginia’s third graders that have had a cavity.

10 Years+ 

90% of dental crowns will last more than 10 years. Gold crowns last the longest. 

2.3 Million

Number of implant-supported crowns produced annually in the U.S.

This article originally appeared in our August 2018 issue as part of the Dental Health special section.

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