Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DENTAL CARE: The trouble with teeth

Foods and drinks other than coffee, tea can cause stains

Eveline Gan

MOST of us are probably aware that coffee and tea can stain our teeth. But did you also know that seemingly innocuous foods such as fruit juices, blueberries, cherries and even curry can leave their mark on your pearly whites?

“The easiest way to think of it is this: If a food or beverage can leave permanent stains on your clothes or carpet, it can also stain your teeth,” said Dr Phang Hui Jing, a dental surgeon with dental group Team GPA.

Teeth are porous and made up of hollow tube-like structures called dentin tubules.

“Teeth stains occur when the enamel (surface of the teeth) picks up stains from food and beverages through the dentin tubules,” explained Dr Phang.

That means food such as tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and red wine can tarnish your teeth. According to Dr Chong Kai Chuan, director for Q&M Dental Institute, red wine is one of the worst culprits.

“Acidic food and beverages such as carbonated drinks and red wine erode and roughen the surface of the tooth, increasing the pick-up rate of stains from other food substances,” he said.

But don’t be too quick to point your finger at your dietary habits. Poor dental hygiene and accumulated dental plaque also contribute to stains.

Healthy you, inside out.

Said Dr Phang: “Many teeth stains — especially the yellow-brown to dark brown ones — are actually caused by pigments embedded in plaque that has become coloured from the interaction with food debris, wine or other sources.”

Luckily, extrinsic stains caused by food and drinks are usually reversible. Both dentists said such stains often respond well to good oral care — this includes twice-daily brushing and flossing — as well as professional cleaning and whitening treatments.

Using a straw to drink can also help to reduce your teeth’s exposure to stain-inducing beverages, advised Dr Phang.

“Be wise about what you eat or drink. When indulging in food and beverages that can cause staining, finish them in one or two sittings rather than eat or sip them throughout the day. And brush your teeth after that,” said Dr Phang.

But Dr Chong said there isn’t really a foolproof prevention method. “Unless you don’t eat or drink, there is no way to prevent such stains. They are not exactly a bad thing — they serve as a reminder to visit your dentist regularly, which helps prevent other dental problems.”

From TODAY, Health
Tuesday, 31-March-2009

BIRTHMARK: A sign of serious disorders?

Capillary haemangioma or strawberry birthmark....
Capillary haemangioma or strawberry birthmark. A common birthmark that fades with age. On the belly of an infant with adult finger for scale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While some are harmless, others could point to various health conditions

Eveline Gan

WHEN Maggie (not her real name) was born, her parents thought that the café-au-lait spots on her body were harmless birthmarks. Little did they suspect that the flat, coffee-coloured birthmarks were a tell-tale sign of a medical condition.

Now in her 20s, Maggie has neurofibromatosis, a neurological genetic disorder which causes benign tumours (called neurofibromas) to form on the nerves or other tissue. Maggie’s case is an example of how seemingly harmless birthmarks could be a harbinger of other more serious medical disorders.

Dr Mary Daniel, head and senior consultant of the neonatal ambulatory services at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, estimated that about one in five children are born with up to three café-au-lait spots. In most cases, these spots are harmless.

But in pre-pubescent children, six or more café-au-lait spots, each larger than 5mm in diameter (or larger than 15mm after puberty), could be a tell-tale sign of neurofibromatosis type 1, said Dr Derrick Aw, a dermatologist of the University Medicine Cluster at National University Hospital.

From just “several spots” at birth, the café-au-lait spots on Maggie’s body multiplied as she grew up. Now, she has more than 100 neurofibromas of varying sizes on her body and face.

Over the years, Maggie has gone through several surgeries to remove these tumours.

“Large birthmarks on exposed parts of the body can cause emotional distress to the child,” said Dr Daniel.

However, the problem is more than cosmetic. The disorder is also linked to medical complications such as high blood pressure, and hormonal and skeletal abnormalities, added Dr Aw.

Café-au-lait spots are just one type of birthmark linked to a medical condition.

According to Dr Daniel, a large port-wine stain on one side of the face, covering the cheek and eyes, may also indicate a rare and serious neurological disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome, as well as conditions such as glaucoma, an eye disease.

While many birthmarks, such as Mongolian spots (birthmarks which look like bruises) and stork bites (salmon-coloured patches on the head and neck) typically fade away on its own as the child ages, others can grow larger or become cancerous over time.

For instance, a strawberry hemangioma — a red, raised birthmark caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels — is typically harmless in infants.

“A hemangioma may start growing and become larger after birth. However, in most cases, the blood supply does not keep up with its growth and it eventually shrinks until it disappears by the time the child is between three to 10 years old,” said Dr Daniel.

Drink for a healthy life?

However, Dr Aw added, they can continue to grow, ulcerate, bleed and block other parts of the face such as the eye.

“In such unusual circumstances, the physician will usually recommend treatment options such as steroid injections or oral steroids,” he said.

So, when should parents be worried about their child’s birthmark?

“Some tell-tale signs of alarm are when the lesion is huge, say, bigger than a palm’s size; if there are several other similar lesions; or if the birthmark is causing symptoms such as bleeding or pain,” said Dr Aw.

While harmless birthmarks may be removed for cosmetic reasons, Dr Aw said it is important to first make sure that the patient does not have other medical conditions associated with the birthmark. If there are alarm signs, see a doctor, because early intervention is crucial in certain cases.

From TODAY, Health
Tuesday, 31-March-2009

In collaboration with Health Promotion Board

‘Super pill’ may cut heart disease: Study

English: taking blood pressure in PE
English: taking blood pressure in PE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Afternoon latest

ORLANDO (Florida) — Healthy people could cut their risk of heart disease in half with a new “super pill” that combines low doses of aspirin and drugs that lower blood pressure and cholesterol, a study said yesterday.

“We believe that the polypill probably has the potential to reduce heart disease by 60 per cent and stroke by 50 per cent,” lead investigator Salim Yusuf told reporters at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, where the study was presented.

“The thought that people might be able to take a single pill to reduce multiple cardiovascular risk factors has generated a lot of excitement. It could revolutionise heart disease prevention as we know it,” Mr Yusuf said.

In the three-month study cardiologists compared the impact on blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate of the combination “polypill” and the medications that make it up, taken individually or together. The study involved 2,053 patients, recruited from heart centres around India between March 2007 and August last year.

Juice for the heart, anyone?

The “polypill” contains low doses of three medications against high blood pressure, simvastatin, which lowers LDL (or bad cholesterol) and aspirin, a known bloodthinner.

Participants in the study were divided into groups and given either the “polypill” or aspirin, the cholesterol-lowering medication, or one of the three blood pressure medications on their own; different combinations of blood pressure medications, or all three blood pressure treatments with or without aspirin.

The researchers found that blood pressure in participants in the “polypill” group was lowered as much as in the group taking the three blood pressure medications together, with or without aspirin.

Those blood pressure reductions “could theoretically lead to about a 24 per cent risk reduction in congestive heart disease and 33 per cent risk reduction in strokes in those with average blood pressure levels,” the study said.

The “polypill” reduced LDL cholesterol significantly more than in all other groups except the one in which simvastatin was taken alone. The simvastatin group’s LDL levels fell only slightly more than the “polypill” group, the study found.

Heart rates in the “polypill” group and the group taking one of the blood-pressure medications, atenolol, fell by seven beats a minute — significantly more than in the other study groups.

Side-effects in patients taking the “polypill” were the same as when taking one or two medications, the study found.

“The side-effects of one drug may be counteracted by beneficial effects of another. So the rate of stopping medications was the same,” it said.

The study was “a critical first step to inform the design of larger, more definitive studies, as well as further development of appropriate combinations of blood-pressure lowering drugs with statins and aspirin,” said Mr Yusuf. AFP

From TODAY, World
Tuesday, 31-March-2009

Plastic Bottle Reuse – is it safe?

English: Damavand Mineral Water bottle
English: Damavand Mineral Water bottle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Once again, this topic came out in my hearing – right at home.

I have 3 daughters, 11 years, 10 years and 7 years old angels, and currently all studying in the same primary school in Singapore. My eldest being the oldest, and having studied the most of the three (Primary 6, Primary 4 and Primary 2), she freely told my wife on what she knew about the reuse of plastic bottle containers.

We have about 6 different bottled-water containers, all of which are the handy PET bottles, easily filled up, easily carried, easily stored in the fridge, easily emptied, easily cleaned, easily dried, and then again to be refilled and reused the next round.

While we were in the kitchen, she saw (not that the other two don’t see it) my wife drinking from one of the reused water bottles, and she immediately told her of the supposedly “dangers and hazards” of drinking from reused plastic water bottles. And just like any other schoolgirl, everything she said (and consequently, everything she knew about plastic bottles) was all according to her teacher.

Her mother replied that it is safe, so long as you clean the bottles well before each reuse. Then she asked, ‘who told you that?’

‘My school teacher,’ was the reply.

Although I myself knew and have read in the internet before about the mendacity of the claim, that there is leaching of toxins, and plastic bottles should be crushed after the first use, I wanted to search one more time, so I can show to my children, not just my firstborn, about the untruthfulness of the “urban legend”, the hoax, about the “unsafe reuse of plastic bottles”.

Obviously, it is not only water that is contained in plastic bottles, but a lot of other commodities.

Before going into the websites, I actually have some questions, if really the claim of an unsafe reuse is true:
1. The shelf life of the consumables, until how long can they be stored, and at what kind of environment?
2. If the toxins are released when they are reused, what is the certainty that the plastic bottles don’t leach the toxins while they are in storage (first time use)?
3. Is this not simply a marketing hype, so people will “crush and dispose”, then “buy more bottled products”?
4. How do we handle the environmental damage, since the recommendation is to “crush and dispose of”?
5. If plastic bottle containers are unsafe, how about all the other containers and household items that are made of plastic? Can they be deemed safe, or are they also “unsafe and hazardous”?

Body cleansing the natural way...

Just a few questions from me, and not wanting to wax any longer, here goes.

All about plastic information sites:

The Safety of Plastic Beverage Bottles. If not answering all of the questions, this site already has most of the information that a reader would want to know. A very good site indeed.

Note safe, eh? County wants residents to refill plastic bottles.

Not to digress, but this site is all about drinking mineral water

The Truth About Drinking Mineral Water

The environmental damage of plastic:

Series of blunders turned the plastic bag into global villain

The admonition to reuse and recycle

The “myth” links:

Plastic Drink Bottle Cancer Link "a Myth"

Bottle Bunk

Bottle Royale

Plastic drink bottle cancer link 'a myth'

Is it safe to refill single-use water bottles?

Don't Drink Bottled Water Kept in Car

Myths & Realities

Comments for “Why You Must Never Reuse Your Plastic Water Bottles”

Does Freezing Water in Plastic Bottles Release Dioxins?

How widely used is plastic? See below sites for some idea.

The different plastic container/bottle products

Plastic Tanks, Buckets, Labwares, etc.

Container & Packaging Supply

Plastic bottles for commercial use in high-temperature sterilization.

Some developments, but I haven’t seen the conclusion of which.

Planet Green Bottle Corp. Introduces World's First Commercial Oxo-Biodegradable Plastic Bottle

As said in the site itself, Plastic bottles release ‘gender bending’ chemicals. Check it as well.

Monday, March 30, 2009


A scanning electron microscope image of normal...
A scanning electron microscope image of normal circulating human blood showing red blood cells, several types of white blood cells including lymphocytes, a monocyte, a neutrophil and many small disc-shaped platelets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was called by an attendant from my wife's clinic where she is doing her monthly prenatal check-ups, and they asked me, the father, to go for CBC (complete blood count) test, or otherwise knows as FBC (full blood count) test. This I know.

Then I was told to go for another test, which sounded unfamiliar to me, so I tried to remember how it sounded. Then I searched for it in the web.

Thalassemia. That is the test I was supposed to go for. I wanted to find out if this is something that is really required or just a routine check. So I found one article here, then another one here, and a third one here.

Health conscious?

Based on what I read, I think I should go for the test. It is more for the gynaecologist to be settled that nothing is wrong with our baby, who is currently on week 14, than for me and my wife. Reason being is that we have already decided to keep our baby, no matter what.