Vital Record http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Thu, 26 Feb 2015 21:48:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Airplane or giant germ-mobile: How to avoid travel germs http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=airplane-or-giant-germ-mobile-how-to-avoid-travel-germs http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=airplane-or-giant-germ-mobile-how-to-avoid-travel-germs#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:10:01 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22816 Traveling isn’t always fun, especially during cold and flu season, but sometimes it’s necessary. While a plastic bubble and a personal supply of oxygen may seem like the only way to keep those germs away, Cristie Columbus, M.D., vice dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Dallas and an infectious disease specialist, offers some tactics to avoid catching anything in-flight]]>
Passenger on an airplane

Traveling can be a hassle and a hazard – especially during cold and flu season – but there are some ways you can avoid picking up any unwanted passengers in-flight.

Many of us have experienced it: The woman next to you on the plane just sneezed without covering her mouth, the man behind you is coughing uncontrollably and you can practically feel the germs closing in on you as you sit in your cramped seat on what appears to be a giant germ deathtrap. Traveling isn’t always fun, especially during cold and flu season, but sometimes it’s necessary.

While a plastic bubble and a personal supply of oxygen may seem like the only way to keep those germs away, Cristie Columbus, M.D., vice dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Dallas and an infectious disease specialist, offers some tactics to avoid catching anything in-flight.

“While airplanes seem like they’re the surest way to catch a cold or something nastier, research suggests that the perceived risk is greater than the actual risk,” Columbus commented. “But it’s always helpful to take some preventative measures, especially when the flu or another communicable disease is going around.”

Be aware of your personal space

“Many of the germs you will come across will be on the armrest or the tray table in front of you,” Columbus said. “You can bring a few sanitary wipes in your carry-on and eliminate much of your risk there.”

For areas like the bathroom, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for washing hands: use plenty of soap and water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can avoid touching surfaces by using paper towels to open and close the door and turning faucets on and off.

Columbus also suggests bringing a small, travel-sized bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer for before and after you eat or drink on the plane. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows passengers to bring 3.4 ounces of liquids per container in their carry-on bags, as long as they are kept in a quart-sized plastic bag and separate from other items.

Ask the flight attendant for assistance

If the person next to you can’t stop coughing and refuses to cover their mouth, you can quietly excuse yourself and enlist the help of a flight attendant. If a passenger looks to be contagious, a flight attendant can request that they wear a surgical mask to reduce the chance of spreading the illness. The flight attendant may also be able to relocate the sick traveler away from other passengers if extra seating is available.

“It’s an awkward social position to find yourself in, but if you feel like the person might be contagious, it’s in everyone’s best interest to take precautions. A flight attendant requesting they put on a mask might make your neighbor realize they’re affecting the people around them,” Columbus said.

However, it’s important to remember respiratory etiquette when the shoe is on the other foot. If you are feeling sick or have a cough, remember to cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow and away from others. Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer frequently.

“I would suggest trying to avoid flying if you’re feeling ill, especially if you think you’re contagious, but if you can’t, be considerate of your fellow passengers and do your best to contain your illness,” Columbus advised.

Bolster your own immune system pre-flight

Ultimately, your best defense against sickness is your immune system. Try to get plenty of sleep and drink water before your flight to help your immune system be at its best. If you are on a long or transatlantic flight, stay hydrated and remember to move your legs or stand up every couple of hours to avoid blood clots.

If you have a cold or sinus infection, the change in cabin pressure might aggravate symptoms, so Columbus suggests taking decongestants and ibuprofen (as long as there are no potential interactions) to help alleviate symptoms, before the flight.

It’s important to remember that not all communicable diseases are airborne. Being cognizant of the prevention techniques for different diseases will reduce your risk of contraction; for more information about in-flight transmission of communicable diseases and how to prevent them, visit the CDC’s website on travelers’ health.

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Alpini named the 2016 Takeda Distinguished Scientist, honored for work in gastrointestinal field http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=alpini-named-the-2016-takeda-distinguished-scientist-honored-for-work-in-gastrointestinal-field http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=alpini-named-the-2016-takeda-distinguished-scientist-honored-for-work-in-gastrointestinal-field#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:24:46 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22808 Alipini, Gianfranco

Gianfranco Alpini, Ph.D., distinguished professor of internal medicine and medical physiology at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Gianfranco Alpini, Ph.D., distinguished professor of internal medicine and medical physiology at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Medicine, was recently named the 2016 Takeda Distinguished Scientist by the Gastrointestinal & Liver Section of the American Physiological Society.

The second most prestigious recognition offered by the Gastrointestinal & Liver Section of the American Physiological Society, the Takeda award is given annually to an outstanding investigator who is internationally recognized for contributions to research in gastrointestinal and liver physiology.

Alpini joined the Texas A&M College of Medicine faculty in 1994 and holds the Nicholas C. Hightower Centennial Chair in Gastroenterology at Scott & White.  Just last year, Alpini was appointed a university distinguished professor, which is among the highest honors awarded to Texas A&M University faculty members.

As a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Scholar Award recipient, he also serves as a research scientist with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS) as well as director of the Digestive Disease Research Center (DDRC) at Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH).  The major goal and objective of the DDRC is to discover novel ideas and research findings regarding the digestive system and the liver diseases that affect millions in the United States.

“It is a great honor to represent the university with this distinguished award, and I hope to continue promoting excellence through research and education for many years to come,” Alpini said.  “Thank you for all of the support that I and the DDRC have received from TAMHSC, BSWH and CTVHCS.”

Throughout his career, Alpini has made novel contributions to the science of cholangiocytes (epithelial cells that line the bile duct), the biliary system, melatonin synthesis, clock gene regulation, and the understanding of the role of secretin, a hormone that regulates secretions of the stomach and pancreas and other functions.  His work has led to the development of therapies for specific cholangiocyte/biliary disorders including a biliary and liver cancer, alcoholic liver injury, liver regeneration, primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.

The goal of Alpini’s current research is to determine the molecular mechanisms by which stem cell derived microvesicles contribute to the recovery of biliary injury through non-coding eRNA and cellular senescence related mechanisms. Alpini’s research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, VA Merit Award and Research Career Scientist Award and the Hightower S&W endowed chair in Gastroenterology.

Alpini has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles, reviews and book chapters, as well as more than 300 abstracts.  He is a Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association and serves as an editor or on the editorial board of a number of prestigious scientific journals.  He is also a permanent member of the Hepatobiliary Pathophysiology (HBPP) NIH Study Section.  His research team was recognized with a prestigious Research and Development Award for Department of Veterans Affairs Scientists by the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.

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Texas A&M pharmacy student receives Mayo Clinic summer internship http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-pharmacy-student-receives-mayo-clinic-summer-internship http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-pharmacy-student-receives-mayo-clinic-summer-internship#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:00:55 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22800 Sasha Cruz is one of four students nationwide who have been selected to work in the Mayo Clinic's network of outpatient pharmacies this summer. ]]>

Students have many opportunities to explore various career options in pharmacy while pursuing their education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. Sasha Cruz, who is a second-year professional student pharmacist, applied for an internship with the Mayo Clinic, which is ranked No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s listing of best hospitals for 2014-2015.

“The chances were slim,” Cruz said. “I didn’t think I was going to get it. But I thought I have nothing to lose and so much to gain, so why not?”

Cruz interviewed for the Mayo School of Health Sciences Pharmacy Internship in early February and by the following day she had an offer. It was the chance of a lifetime.

“When I got the call, I think the first words that came out of my mouth were: ‘Are you serious?’” Cruz said. “The intern recruiter I spoke with laughed and said she would not be calling unless she was 100 percent serious.”

Sasha Cruz receives summer internship

Sasha Cruz was selected as one of four students nationwide to work in the Mayo Clinic’s outpatient pharmacy program.

Cruz, who is from San Antonio, will be spending 10 weeks this summer in Rochester, Minn. She was selected as one of four students nationwide to work in the clinic’s outpatient pharmacy program.

“I look forward to experiencing the Mayo Clinic’s six outpatient pharmacies where interns rotate,” she said.

In its network of outpatient pharmacies, the Mayo Clinic sees approximately 1.4 million patients each year, and dispenses nearly 3,500 prescriptions per day.

“It is an overwhelming amount,” Cruz said. “In two of their outpatient pharmacies there are no medications – just pharmacists interacting with patients.”

In these pharmacies, time is devoted to patients for counseling and asking questions. While the patient receives one-on-one time with pharmacists, their prescription is shipped through a tubing system where a central area fills the script.

“One of the biggest mottos at the Mayo Clinic is that the needs of the patient come first,” Cruz said.

Cruz has a passion for patient care and has a heart for educating patients on the use of their medications. She received first place in the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Patient Counseling Competition Feb. 2 at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and will participate in the National Patient Counseling Competition in March at the 2015 APhA Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif.

“I will have plenty of practice with patient interaction and counseling by the end of the summer,” she said. “One emphasis of the program is polishing counseling skills, but I also expect to interact with other health care professionals, including pharmacists, doctors and nurses.”

As a student at Texas A&M, Cruz found her niche in outpatient care during her summer internship with Juan Castro, M.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice. In the internship at his medical practice in Corpus Christi, Texas, she evaluated patients based on medical history, examinations and current medications.

“Her rapport with patients was exceptional,” Dr. Castro said. “Her humility and confidence allowed her to communicate with patients in a way that put them at ease. Patients confided in her with information that they had not revealed to me or my staff.”

The outpatient care setting exposed Cruz to what she believes is the best of pharmacy patient care.

“The retail pharmacy setting offers direct patient interaction but it can be limited at times, and the hospital setting offers a more clinical view of the patient,” she said. “With outpatient care I had the best of both worlds, I could sit down with patients, look at their lab values, discuss their care and learn more about them.”

In outpatient care, where patients are not hospitalized for care, Cruz said she could be a cheerleader for the patient and observe care holistically. “I can look at their medications and see what adjustments need to be made while taking into account other physical or social factors that might affect patient care,” she said.

She learned that pharmacists can play a big role in chronic diseases. In her summer internship at Dr. Castro’s office, she introduced a diabetes standards of care form that was implemented for his patients who had diabetes.

“She instructed our staff of the need for such a form,” Dr. Castro said. “She shared with us the objectives and the expected outcomes.”

Cruz noticed that patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes require more motivation to manage their disease.

“Patients have already been told to exercise more or eat healthier,” she said. “But these are not things they can easily do on their own. They really need that cheerleader, and I feel that the outpatient care setting gives you the opportunity to be that for patients.”

As an intern at the Mayo Clinic, she will experience specialized pharmacy practice areas including critical care, cardiac surgery, cardiology, anti-coagulation, and many others. During the summer she will perform mini rotations shadowing various pharmacy specialties. At the end of the internship she will share a presentation with the staff and receive feedback from peers on how to improve her skills.

“More than anything, I am so excited and just grateful, I think it is going to be an amazing experience,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to learn and interact with patients and find ways to improve patient care – that is the No. 1 thing to me. Mayo Clinic stands for that. I still wake up sometimes thinking: ‘Did they really pick me? Am I dreaming?’”

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Dean Maddock elected President of the American Academy of Health Behavior http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dean-maddock-elected-president-of-the-american-academy-of-health-behavior http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dean-maddock-elected-president-of-the-american-academy-of-health-behavior#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:03:18 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22797 Jay Maddock, Ph.D., dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has been elected President of the American Academy of Health Behavior (AAHB)]]>
Jay Maddock, Ph.D.

Jay Maddock, Ph.D.

Jay Maddock, Ph.D., dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has been elected President of the American Academy of Health Behavior (AAHB).

The organization focuses on both excellence in research and the application of research to practice to improve the public’s health. Previously, he served AAHB as chair of the membership committee and part of the strategic planning committee.

Maddock is internationally recognized for his research in social ecological approaches to increasing physical activity. He has served as principal investigator on more than $18 million in extramural funding and is an author of more than 90 scientific articles.

He assumed leadership of the Texas A&M School of Public Health in February 2015, a top 25 ranked public health graduate school by U.S. News and World Report. Previously he served as the director of the University of Hawaii Public Health Program.

Dean Maddock will begin his term as President-Elect at the AAHB annual meeting in March and will become President in 2016.

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Texas A&M, DeTar receive accreditation for Family Medicine Residency Program in Victoria http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-detar-receive-accreditation-for-family-medicine-residency-program-in-victoria http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-detar-receive-accreditation-for-family-medicine-residency-program-in-victoria#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 20:01:51 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22793 Texas A&M College of Medicine and DeTar Hospital in Victoria have received accreditation for a Family Medicine Residency Program that will train more primary care physicians for South Texas]]>

In collaboration with Texas A&M Health Science Center, the DeTar Healthcare System Family Medicine Residency in Victoria has received approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), effective July 1, 2015. The three-year program – which addresses a critical need for more primary care physicians in South Texas – will accept its first six residents in July 2016.

Family Medicine Residency at DeTar creates more physicians for South Texas

Texas A&M College of Medicine and DeTar Hospital in Victoria have received accreditation for a Family Medicine Residency Program that will train more primary care physicians for South Texas.

“As a land-grant university, Texas A&M has always embodied a service-oriented mentality,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “The DeTar collaboration, and this latest accreditation milestone, brings us one step closer to serving more patients in this community and improving the health of South Texans for years to come.”

Cliff Thomas of Victoria, who serves as Vice Chairman of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, also expressed his appreciation for the residency program. “This program will make a big difference in the quality of health care, and in the quality of life, for the citizens of our region,” Regent Thomas said.

As part of the Region 5 Texas 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver, DeTar requested to establish a Family Medicine Residency Program in South Texas to serve this population, cited as Medicaid underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A 304-bed two-hospital system, DeTar provides care for Victoria and its surrounding counties, a 5,200 square mile area with a population of 164,467.

“The DeTar Healthcare System has recruited physicians to this community for more than 80 years as part of our commitment to provide quality medical care to the Crossroads area,” said William R. Blanchard, chief executive officer for the DeTar Healthcare System. “The family medicine residency program allows us to continue this tradition for many years to come.”

The three-year curriculum will train residents to provide comprehensive primary care within a patient-centered medical home environment and encourages graduates to continue practicing in the underserved area. The program will enroll an additional six residents per year, for a total program size of 18 family medicine residents training at DeTar in 2018.

“We have designed our program to meet the unique needs of South Texas, with full spectrum family medicine with obstetrics; tropical and international medicine; cutting edge lifestyle intervention to prevent and reverse diabetes and heart disease; and rural telemedicine experiences,” said Sidney Ontai, M.D., DeTar Family Medicine Residency program director and assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “Studies show that the majority of matriculating residents locate within 60 miles of their residency programs, so our curriculum should equip our graduates to serve South Texans well.”

The program received a $150,000 planning grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, part of the $16 million appropriated to graduate medical education by the 83rd Texas Legislature. Partnerships such as this increase access to physicians in underserved areas and are a critical component to growing the health care workforce across the state.

“The Family Medicine Residency Program in Victoria will play a key role in the development of a comprehensive physician workforce solution for the entire state,” said Paul Ogden, M.D., interim dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “Texas A&M is piecing together the puzzle, working with partners like DeTar to develop new programs to alleviate the current primary care shortage, and thus ensuring that all Texans are getting the best care possible.”

 

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Diet high in red meat may make kidney disease worse http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=diet-high-in-red-meat-may-make-kidney-disease-worse http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=diet-high-in-red-meat-may-make-kidney-disease-worse#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 21:06:35 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22777 Diet can play a key role in whether kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, according to research conducted by a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine]]>
Steaks

A diet high in red meat may speed the progression of kidney disease.

An estimated 26 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease, which can lead to complete kidney failure. Once the kidneys fail, patients either need to undergo dialysis treatments three times a week or have a kidney transplant to remain alive. In 2013, more than 47,000 Americans died from kidney disease.

Diet can play a key role in whether kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, according to research conducted by a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Donald Wesson, M.D., was among the authors of a study that was recently published online by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study suggests that a diet high in animal proteins – especially red meat – can worsen the progression of kidney disease.

“Our study found that patients with chronic kidney disease who consumed diets high in animal protein were three times more likely to develop kidney failure than patients who consumed diets high in fruits and vegetables,” Wesson says.

The findings were based on data collected from 1,486 adults with chronic kidney disease who were participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The study is believed to be the largest one to look at the long-term impact of diet on kidney disease in humans.

Wesson explains that when humans eat animal proteins such as red meat, the body metabolizes these proteins into acids. The kidneys produce substances to help the body rid itself of this acid, but these substances can hurt kidney function if they remain at high levels in the body over long periods of time.

“It’s like a double-edge sword,” Wesson says. “In the short term these substances can help the kidneys get rid of acid, but in the long-term they can reduce kidney function.”

Wesson has spent more than 30 years studying the impact of diet on kidney disease. His studies have shown that when animals or humans switch from a diet high in animal protein to one high in plant proteins such as fruits and vegetables, kidney function is protected. This is because the body metabolizes plant proteins into bases, not acids.

Wesson currently is a co-investigator on a multi-center, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a national study to confirm if reducing dietary acid slows or prevents worsening of kidney disease.

Wesson says that while studies have yet to prove that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can prevent kidney disease, such diets have already been shown to help to maintain overall good health.

He notes that diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce blood pressure, which is very beneficial to patients with chronic kidney disease because most of these patients have higher than normal blood pressure without treatment.

“We know that fruits and vegetables are ‘heart friendly’ and these ongoing studies will help confirm if they are also ‘kidney friendly’,” Wesson says. “Stay tuned.”

 

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School of Public Health researcher awarded funding to evaluate usability of procedure development and implementation software http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=peres-awarded-funding-to-evaluate-usability-of-procedure-development-and-implementation-software http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=peres-awarded-funding-to-evaluate-usability-of-procedure-development-and-implementation-software#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:14:16 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22769 S. Camille Peres, Ph.D., has been awarded $142,300 to examine the usability of a software tool that has the potential to improve worker safety and performance]]>
In high-risk industries, lives depend on procedures being written and used correctly.

In high-risk industries, lives depend on procedures being written and used correctly.

It has been said that procedures are written by those who don’t like to write, for those who don’t like to read. However, in high-risk industries, lives depend on procedures being written and used correctly.

One of the tools currently being used in industries as varied as nuclear to space is ATR’s SmartProcedures, software that separates and checks content and formatting of safety procedures. S. Camille Peres, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, was recently awarded funding of $142,300 for two years by ATR to examine the usability of SmartProcedures™. This tool has the potential to not only expand the likeliness of workers accessing important procedural guidelines in the field, but to improve worker safety and performance.

Peres is an expert in the human factors implication of procedure design and applies the principles and techniques of cognitive psychology to the human-machine interface to improve the usability and effectiveness of the interface.

User testing will be conducted to identify any redesign necessary to ensure SmartProcedureseffectively facilitates employees who not only write the safety procedures, but those who actually perform the procedures in the field.

S. Camille Peres, Ph.D.

S. Camille Peres, Ph.D.

“It is not easy to write procedures in a manner that is accurate, clear and concise,” Peres said. “ATR wants to make sure that the interface for SmartProceduresTM does not make this process more difficult. Further, they are interested in exploring how other methods of delivering procedures to the operators, such as hand-held devices, may impact the operators’ comprehension and compliance with the steps of the procedure.”

Peres will research varying groups of employees by recording their responses and behaviors as they attempt to perform various tasks using the software.

This is part of an integrated program of research Peres is working on with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center focused on developing a writer’s guide for procedure writers within high-risk industries such as chemical, space, and oil and gas.

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Ory named Associate Dean of Research http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=ory-named-associate-dean-of-research http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=ory-named-associate-dean-of-research#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 19:13:52 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22767 Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., has been named Associate Dean of Research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health]]>
Marcia Ory, Ph.D.

Marcia Ory, Ph.D.

Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., has been named Associate Dean of Research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.

Ory is an international leader in healthy aging, community-based prevention and wellness research. She has made substantial contributions to identifying factors associated with healthy aging as well as implementing and disseminating evidence-based programs for improving the health and functioning of older adults. Working collaboratively with a variety of community, state and national partners, she has advanced the science of public health translational research.

She has authored or co-authored 10 edited books, 40 book chapters, 21 edited issues in professional journals, 331 peer-reviewed articles and delivered over 500 presentations at local, state, national and international venues. Additionally, she has been awarded more than $20 million in funding support for research and service projects.

Ory received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Aging and Public Health Section of the American Public Health Association. She has also received the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Presidential Award in Research selected for this honor from nominees from the colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing.

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Pearly whites: Is there such a thing as too much bleaching? http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=pearly-whites-is-there-such-a-thing-as-too-much-bleaching http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=pearly-whites-is-there-such-a-thing-as-too-much-bleaching#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 15:22:54 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22730 Many of us strive for the perfect, bright white smile that lights up a room. For some, people, this means bleaching, bleaching and more bleaching; but is it possible to over bleach? Are there any unintended consequences on our pursuit toward the perfect smile? While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach]]>
Teeth whitening kit

While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach.

Many of us strive for the perfect, bright white smile that lights up a room. For some, people, this means bleaching, bleaching and more bleaching; but is it possible to over bleach? Are there any unintended consequences on our pursuit toward the perfect smile?

While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach. Charles Wakefield, D.D.S., professor at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, provides the following advice for people seeking those pearly whites.

Some stains can’t be removed

Before you put on your fifth whitening strip of the week, consider this: Consistently bleaching your teeth won’t always leave you with a whiter smile. While excessive bleaching doesn’t injure the teeth, it can be frustrating to people who simply can’t get rid of a stubborn stain.

“There are some stains that can’t be polished off or removed with whitening strips,” Wakefield said. “Some brown or white stains can be the result of excess fluoride that has affected the enamel, or the outer surface of the teeth; while blue, grey or violet stains can be caused by certain medications that alter the mineral structure of the tooth during development.”

There could be side effects

“The most common side effect of bleaching is tooth sensitivity. This can range from mild to extreme sensitivity to cold air or liquids,” Wakefield cautioned. If you start having extreme sensitivity, this can usually be treated with desensitizing pastes like Sensodyne. However, you may want to consider reducing the frequency or the length in which you bleach your teeth.

On some occasions, the bleach used at the dentist’s office has may cause gum sensitivity. This is due to the higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide. When the bleaching trays lie on the edges of the gum, some patients’ gums turn white in a few seconds and cause sensitivity. While there’s no way to know who will have this reaction, your dentist will use a lower concentration for a shorter period the next time you get your teeth bleached.

For patients with dry mouths, take a closer look at the type of whitening products you use. If the product is acidic (usually a pH of less than 5.2), there’s the possibility of surface demineralization, roughness or shiny smoothness. Since saliva remineralizes the tooth’s surface, people with dry mouths need to be more cautious about their bleaching habits.

Another possible side effect is an unnatural, single-shaded smile. “Normal teeth are polychromatic, that is, they are a little darker at the gum line and lighter in the middle, with varying translucency at the very edge. Excessive bleaching tends to make teeth monochromatic, appearing to be the same shade at the end of the tooth as well as at the gum line,” Wakefield explained.

Not all products are made equally

It seems that everywhere we turn there’s a dental product that promises us a whiter smile. However, some products aren’t as effective as they are marketed. “Whitening toothpastes may have a higher degree of abrasiveness to help clean stains from the tooth surface, but do not reach deeper areas,” Wakefield said.

The most effective whitening products use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. Over-the-counter whitening products use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide than the bleach used at the dentist’s office, so they may not be as effective or will require more applications.

If you decide whitening strips are most convenient for you, Wakefield advises pushing the strips between the teeth, rather than allowing them to lie flat on the surface. This will help to avoid a bright spot in the middle of the tooth.

“How often someone uses whitening products is at the user’s discretion. Some people are happy with a touch-up during their visit to the dentist, while others prefer to use whitening strips on a more regular basis,” Wakefield said.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that white teeth don’t necessarily mean healthy teeth: Don’t skip out on regular dental check-ups on an annual or bi-annual basis.

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