Gum Disease can cause more than just bad breath. For some sufferers, gum disease has been associated with worsening cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and in some studies has been linked to an increased rate of preterm birth! The reason behind this is that gum disease is an inflammatory and bacterial disease that begins in the mouth and indirectly impacts the rest of the body. Scientists believe that inflammation and the inflammatory chemicals caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the ill-effects away from the mouth.
For most individuals, gum disease is mild and bleeding on brushing is simply an indication that their hygiene habits (brushing flossing, regular professional cleans) have lapsed. This type of inflammation is called gingivitis and is reversible with good hygiene habits.
However, for others bleeding and receding gums, bad breath, loose teeth and progressive gaps in between the teeth are common symptoms of a serious form of gum disease called Periodontitis. Periodontitis if left unmanaged, will eventually cause loss of teeth and bone support, make treatment options like implants unviable and create oral disability, where normal functions like eating and aesthetics are compromised. This is the type of gum disease is of greatest concern to OVERALL general health and an individual’s risk for periodontitis, has been shown to increase with age.
Periodontitis is best diagnosed during a full dental check up and there is no substitute for this in obtaining an accurate diagnosis and customised treatment plan. However, if you have any concerns in regards to gum health, feel free to either comment below or email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 5DRs have been very concerned about the recent reports about processed meat and whether we should or shouldn’t be giving them up. We asked our resident research expert Dr Haloom Rafehi to look at the data and help us understand what is all means.
Tabloid media loves a good disease related story, and while these can often be educational, they are often sensationalised, confusing and contradictory. One aspect of medical research that is often poorly communicated is risk.
As an example, let’s look at the recent media focus on the link between processed meat and colorectal cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently released a report stating that for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily, an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer increases by 18%. Furthermore, news articles also reported that processed meat is classed as a group 1 category along with known carcinogens (cancer causing agents) such as cigarettes and asbestos.
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? So why aren’t we all developing colorectal cancer? Fortunately for all lovers of processed meat such as sausages and salami, the media reporting, while technically truly, is highly misleading.
First of all, overall (or absolute) risk of developing colorectal cancer is not 18% – rather, those who eat 50 grams of daily are 18% more likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to those who do not. While 18% sounds like a huge number, it is actually a 1.18 times increase – less than a doubling.
It is estimated that Australians who live to age of 85 years of age have an 8.2% chance of developing bowel cancer. That means for every 100 Australians, between 8-9 individuals will develop colorectal cancer by the age of 85. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that this statistic is based on a population that eats no processed meat at all – what would happen if everyone suddenly started eating 50 grams a day? The 8.2% risk would increase by 18%. That equals 1.47%. When we add that back to the original 8.2% risk, we now get a new absolute risk estimation of 9.6%. In other words, we have gone from 8-9 cases of colorectal cancer for every 100 Australians to 9-10 cases. That is a much smaller increase compared to the original 18%.
Furthermore, reports that the IARC classed processed meat in the same category as smoking and asbestos are also misleading. The group 1 category does not refer to the how strongly something causes cancer, as one might assume. Instead, it refers to the strength of the evidence and research used to identify the increased cancer risk. In other words, smoking is listed in group 1 because there is strong evidence that it confers a very strong risk of developing lung cancer. In contrast, processed meat is listed in group 1 because there is strong evidence that it can increase cancer risk, but only by a small amount. Some estimates indicate that smoking causes up to 21% of all cancer-related deaths. Eating processed meat does not even come to that figure.
Of course, this does not mean that we should eat as much sausage and salami as we like. It has been well known for a long time that processed meats are not very healthy – they are high in salt and, more often than not, very high in unhealthy saturated fats. They should only be consumed in a limited quantity. However, overstating the cancer risk also causes unnecessary worry and guilt. I hope that the next time you come across health reporting in the media, you will remember this topical example and approach with caution.
For those interested in learning more, I have collated some useful resources on the topic:
The original report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC):
A great video explaining this issue by the team at SciShow:
A comprehensive article further discussing this issue, published in the conversation:
A relevant article about the sensationalist reporting about cooking oils causing cancer by an Australian cancer researcher:
We are so humbled by the support you have shown us. Today we are proud to introduce the first additional Doctor to the 5Drs team! We are so please to have such a talented lady join us in this project!
Introducing Dr Fatima Kurnaz (BBiomed, DDS)
Dr Fatima Kurnaz is a dentist who grew up in Melbourne. Dr Kurnaz obtained her formal qualifications from The University of Melbourne, and includes a Bachelor of Biomedicine, with a major in anatomy and physiology; and more recently, a Doctor of Dental Surgery.
Currently based in Darwin, Dr Kurnaz works in a private practice. Her areas of interest include oral surgery and restorative dentistry, as well as hoping to further delve into airway problems and sleep apnoea. She is excited about oral health preventative programs, and plans on embarking on working more closely with the Indigenous communities. In her efforts, she hopes to increase accessibility to dentistry and play a role in reducing the oral health disparity that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous populations.
Outside of dentistry, Dr Kurnaz is currently completing a Master of Arts and is actively involved with the community and youth of Darwin. As part of the Five Doctors Project, she hopes to promote sound understanding of oral health and diseases.
Dr Kuyruk is a medical doctor currently working in Melbourne. Dr Kuyruk initially completed an undergraduate double-degree in Law and Science with a major in physiology at the University of Melbourne. During her undergraduate studies, despite enjoying the conceptual complexity of law, she became intrigued by the health sciences. As such, she then undertook postgraduate medical studies at the University of Melbourne, completing a Doctor of Medicine (MD).
During her undergraduate studies, Dr Kuyruk’s predominant research interests involved exploring the rights of women and children in modern society along with Public Interest Law as well as Health and Medical Law. She completed a year-long research project assessing the role of the Children’s Court of Victoria. Her interest in working with children has persisted through her medical training and Dr Kuyruk is looking forward to discussing important issues impacting the health of children on the Five Doctors blog.
Dr Kuyruk is also passionate about understanding the causes and potential medical treatments of obesity and the genetic, environmental and psychological basis of weight gain and weight loss. She recently contributed to a study exploring this area under the guidance of two well-established obesity specialistists.
Dr Kuyruk believes that evidence-based medicine is essential to addressing modern-day health issues and hopes through the Five Doctors project that sound medical information will be more widely available. She is passionate about advocating for the rights of women and children, and believes that helping women stay informed is key to achieving this aim. She is also a lover of art, fashion and all things caffeinated.
Dr Kaoutar (Kat) Marhfour is a registered and practising dentist graduating from The University of Melbourne with First- Class Honours in the year 2007.
Dr. Kat started off her university education as a Law/Science student and moved on to pursue her love of health sciences by enrolling in a Bachelor of Dental Science. During her academic years, she was awarded numerous prizes for academic excellence and consistently ranked in the Top 3 of her class.
Upon graduation, Dr Kat practised for 7 years in the heart of Melbourne CBD, in the largest, prestigious, private practice in Australia. During her time at Smile Solutions, Dr Kat had the privilege of working among Australia’s leading dentists and specialists in every aspect of dentistry. Dr Kat practises as a general dentist but has a special interest in modern, cosmetic dentistry, including teeth whitening, veneers and facial injectables.
Alongside her husband, Dr. Kat has been practising in and administrating their two privately owned dental clinics in Queensland and recently launched a company providing Continuing Education Courses for Dentists. Dr. Kat also founded a local community initiative educating school aged children on dental health, oral hygiene and diet.
Soon to go on maternity leave, Dr. Kat hopes to continue to share her extensive dental knowledge and provide practical dental advice, through the 5doctors initiative.
Dr Balkis is an Optometrist who graduated from the University of Melbourne and is currently working at a clinic in greater metropolitan Melbourne.
Although Dr Balkis practices general Optometry & consults a wide range of patients of various demographics, she is particularly passionate about paediatric optometry & has special interests in ocular disease.
Shortly after graduating Dr Balkis had the opportunity to volunteer for a Fred Hollows Foundation outreach program in Fiji where she assisted with both pre & post operative care of patients undergoing cataract surgery. She was able to witness severely vision-impaired people regain their sight through cataract surgery, some of which who had been legally blind for years. It was a truly rewarding experience. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures undertaken throughout the world, but unfortunately not very accessible in many third world countries.
Dr Balkis is looking forward to working on the Five Doctors project and in particular to play her role in increasing public awareness on the importance of eye health & regular eye examinations to ensure early detection of treatable eye conditions.
Dr Sara Hassan is a medical doctor currently working in a tertiary hospital in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Her formal qualifications have been obtained from the University of Melbourne, and include a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Immunology, a research PhD, and a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.
Prior to embarking on her medical career, Dr Hassan’s main interests were in scientific research. The focus of her PhD, completed at The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, was the characterisation of novel neocentromere binding proteins, with the view to creating genetically engineered human chromosomes for gene therapy. Her main objective was to develop new technologies that could be utilised to eradicate genetically predisposed disorders on the genetic level.
Following the birth of her two children, Dr Hassan made the decision to pursue a medical degree, and has since exchanged her laboratory coat and pipette for a stethoscope. Her main interest in medicine lies in developmental paediatrics, fuelled mainly by the diagnosis of her youngest child with autism. She is a passionate autism advocate, and believes that true understanding and acceptance of children with developmental disorders can only be obtained through a transparent and vocal education campaign that strips away the many myths which exist surrounding their causes and management.
In addition to her roles as a mother, wife and doctor, Dr Hassan’s other passions include implementing philanthropic projects for local and international humanitarian causes, and strongly believes that programs which encourage the empowerment of women through education are the key to overcoming the barriers of misogyny and discrimination which exist in every society. She hope that her role on the Five Doctors project can help many women achieve both health literacy and empowerment through knowledge.
We hope that everyone is doing well. Over the next week we will be posting the biographies of the doctors involved in the 5DRs project. This is the first of those posts.
Dr Haloom Rafehi (BSc (Hons) PhD)
Dr. Haloom Rafehi is a scientist who is currently working at a Melbourne based heart and diabetes research institute. She has obtained formal qualifications from the University of Melbourne, including a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours, and has recently graduated from her PhD.
Her research focuses primarily on understanding how different drugs interact with our ‘epigenomes’ and how they can be used to treat complex and potential deadly diseases such as heart failure. The epigenome refers to the complex mechanisms by which a cell ‘reads’ the DNA and decides whether to produce more protein, the basic building blocks and functional machinery that run our bodies.
Dr. Rafehi has written and continues to write many peer-reviewed original research articles and reviews. Topics include objectively reviewing the potential for natural compounds, such as olive oil or cinnamon extract, to treat diseases such as diabetes. Her more recent work has focused on a class of drugs called HDAC inhibitors that are currently used to treat cancers but have the potential to treat many other diseases, including heart disease and inflammatory disorders.
Her passions include science (of course!) and especially making sure that science communicated to the public is accessible, easy to understand, and most importantly, not sensationalised or over interpreted. She is excited to be working on the Five Doctors project and hopes that she can make a real difference in the lives and health of women.
Click here to view her published work:
Follow her on twitter: @HaloomRafehi
Wow, over 200 supporters so far! We are blown away.
Here is one for all the parents out there. The 5 Drs think it is incredibly important for parents to obtain information from credible sources. There is information everywhere but we need to be certain that it is reliable. We think you and your children deserve the best, which means the best information and the best care available.
Here is a website that the 5 Drs recommend. This is one that has also been recommended to us by a consultant Paediatrician. Notice that this website is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parenting Research Centre and The Australian Government.
Check it out!