Friday, September 7, 2012

#1 Health Care Job of 2012: Dental Hygienists

     If you're seeking job opportunities in a lucrative, rewarding and exponentially growing field, health care may be your answer. The CareerCast Jobs Rated report includes numerous health-care sector careers among its best jobs of 2012, with most ranking in the top 50.
Need more evidence? The Department of Labor (DOL) reports, “Wage and salary employment in the health care industry is projected to increase 27% through 2014, compared with 14% for all industries combined.”

It doesn’t take a comprehensive knowledge of mathematics to see the benefit of joining a workforce expected to grow at almost 100% more than the average rate. It does, however, require specialized education to land a position within some of these fields. Physical therapist, general practice physician and pharmacist, which all rank highly in the new CareerCast report of the 12 best jobs in health care, require a doctoral degree. Others such as occupational therapist call for a Master’s degree.

The No. 1 job in the new CareerCast ranking, however, requires only an Associate’s degree at the entry-level. Dental hygienist is a career field with a considerable median pay of $68,250 per year, and vastly expanding opportunities. Its 38% growth outlook for 2020 makes it one of the most rapidly expanding careers in the nation’s highest growth industry. In fact, with more research linking oral care to serious ailments -- including heart disease -- the dental hygienist’s role is more valuable than ever.

“The No. 1 reason for [becoming] a dental hygienist is the patients,” says Jane, a dental hygienist in New Jersey with over 30 years’ experience. “I have worked in several practices, and at all of them I've built rapport with [patients]. That’s the greatest satisfaction I have taken.”
Jane says the profession appealed to her because it scratched her itch to work in health care. While dental hygienists earn a healthy median pay, Jane says working closely with patients should be your primary motivation.


“Don’t get into it for the money,” she adds. “I have worked with hygienists with [college] degrees who come in and start making what I made with 30 years experience. You have to love what you do…You have to love people and be willing and able to teach them about dental care,” she says.
Physical therapy is another strong health-care specialty with a ranking that attracts dedicated professionals. Helen Kozlowski arrived in the United States from Poland after attending medical school there, and sought a profession that would “make me happy.” She says she found it in physical therapy, a field that's expected to grow at an industry-leading pace of 39%, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) credits to the Baby Boomer generation reaching its twilight years.

The opportunity to help patients rehabilitate ensures no two days are identical for Kozlowski, she says, while her greatest challenges are the physical demands of the job. “There are times you must help a stroke patient unable to move,” she says, as an example. “But then again, that [type of work] is for me.”

1. Dental Hygienist $ 68,109 38%
2. Audiologist $67,137 37%
3. Occupational Therapist $72,110 33%
4. Physical Therapist $ 76,110 39%
5. Optometrist $ 95,152 33%
6. Pharmacist $ 112,070 25%
7. Physician's Assistant $ 86,107 30%
8. Chiropractor $ 67,350 28%
9. General Practice Physician $ 205,029 24%
10. Registered Nurse $ 65,116 26%
11. Speech Pathologist $ 67,142 23%
 12. Psychiatrist $ 164,250 24%

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


 Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role 

  By Gina Kolata

The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs. They can also help explain how the environment can affect disease risk. In the case of identical twins, small changes in environmental exposure can slightly alter gene switches, with the result that one twin gets a disease and the other does not.
As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. The result of the work is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it is doing and how. It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron. 

“It’s Google Maps,” said Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, a joint research endeavor of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In contrast, the project’s predecessor, the Human Genome Project, which determined the entire sequence of human DNA, “was like getting a picture of Earth from space,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you where the roads are, it doesn’t tell you what traffic is like at what time of the day, it doesn’t tell you where the good restaurants are, or the hospitals or the cities or the rivers.”
The new result “is a stunning resource,” said Dr. Lander, who was not involved in the research that produced it but was a leader in the Human Genome Project. “My head explodes at the amount of data.”
The discoveries were published on Wednesday in six papers in the journal Nature and in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. In addition, The Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, and Science is publishing yet another article.

 Human DNA is “a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected,” said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project.

In one of the Nature papers, researchers link the gene switches to a range of human diseases — multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease — and even to traits like height. In large studies over the past decade, scientists found that minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases. But those changes were in the junk, now often referred to as the dark matter — they were not changes in genes — and their significance was not clear. The new analysis reveals that a great many of those changes alter gene switches and are highly significant.
“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements. 

And that, said Dr. Bradley Bernstein, an Encode researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, “is a really big deal.” He added, “I don’t think anyone predicted that would be the case.”
The discoveries also can reveal which genetic changes are important in cancer, and why. As they began determining the DNA sequences of cancer cells, researchers realized that most of the thousands of DNA changes in cancer cells were not in genes; they were in the dark matter. The challenge is to figure out which of those changes are driving the cancer’s growth.

“These papers are very significant,” said Dr. Mark A. Rubin, a prostate cancer genomics researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Rubin, who was not part of the Encode project, added, “They will definitely have an impact on our medical research on cancer.”
In prostate cancer, for example, his group found mutations in important genes that are not readily attacked by drugs. But Encode, by showing which regions of the dark matter control those genes, gives another way to attack them: target those controlling switches.

Dr. Rubin, who also used the Google Maps analogy, explained: “Now you can follow the roads and see the traffic circulation. That’s exactly the same way we will use these data in cancer research.” Encode provides a road map with traffic patterns for alternate ways to go after cancer genes, he said.
Dr. Bernstein said, “This is a resource, like the human genome, that will drive science forward.”
The system, though, is stunningly complex, with many redundancies. Just the idea of so many switches was almost incomprehensible, Dr. Bernstein said.

There also is a sort of DNA wiring system that is almost inconceivably intricate.
“It is like opening a wiring closet and seeing a hairball of wires,” said Mark Gerstein, an Encode researcher from Yale. “We tried to unravel this hairball and make it interpretable.”

There is another sort of hairball as well: the complex three-dimensional structure of DNA. Human DNA is such a long strand — about 10 feet of DNA stuffed into a microscopic nucleus of a cell — that it fits only because it is tightly wound and coiled around itself. When they looked at the three-dimensional structure — the hairball — Encode researchers discovered that small segments of dark-matter DNA are often quite close to genes they control. In the past, when they analyzed only the uncoiled length of DNA, those controlling regions appeared to be far from the genes they affect.

The project began in 2003, as researchers began to appreciate how little they knew about human DNA. In recent years, some began to find switches in the 99 percent of human DNA that is not genes, but they could not fully characterize or explain what a vast majority of it was doing.

The thought before the start of the project, said Thomas Gingeras, an Encode researcher from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was that only 5 to 10 percent of the DNA in a human being was actually being used.
The big surprise was not only that almost all of the DNA is used but also that a large proportion of it is gene switches. Before Encode, said Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, a University of Washington scientist who was part of the project, “if you had said half of the genome and probably more has instructions for turning genes on and off, I don’t think people would have believed you.”

By the time the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, embarked on Encode, major advances in DNA sequencing and computational biology had made it conceivable to try to understand the dark matter of human DNA. Even so, the analysis was daunting — the researchers generated 15 trillion bytes of raw data. Analyzing the data required the equivalent of more than 300 years of computer time.

 Just organizing the researchers and coordinating the work was a huge undertaking. Dr. Gerstein, one of the project’s leaders, has produced a diagram of the authors with their connections to one another. It looks nearly as complicated as the wiring diagram for the human DNA switches. Now that part of the work is done, and the hundreds of authors have written their papers.

“There is literally a flotilla of papers,” Dr. Gerstein said. But, he added, more work has yet to be done — there are still parts of the genome that have not been figured out.

 That, though, is for the next stage of Encode.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Orange juice acid 'can wash away enamel on your teeth'

A U.S. expert says orange juice is so strong it can 'literally wash away your teeth'

Orange juice acid 'can wash away enamel on your teeth'

It may not just be breakfast you wash down with a morning glass of orange juice, researchers warned yesterday. 

Some juice is so acidic, it can take part of your teeth with it.

Fruit beverages can cut enamel hardness by 84 per cent causing teeth to erode more than previously thought, according to one U.S. expert. Dr Yan-Fang Ren, of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, said the acid in orange juice 'is so strong that the tooth is literally washed away'.  Dr Ren and his team made the discovery after studying the effects of over-the-counter teeth whitening products. He found the effect of six per cent hydrogen peroxide, the common ingredient used for teeth whitening, was 'insignificant' compared with acidic fruit juices. The orange juice markedly cut hardness and increased roughness of tooth enamel. The researchers used a revolutionary vertical scanning microscope for the first time to see the extensive surface detail on teeth. It has long been known that fruit juice and carbonated drinks have high acid content and can reduce the strength of enamel.

Dentists have advised some of these drinks should only be consumed with a straw or at the same time as eating food.
But the damaging effects of drinks could be worse than previously thought, according to the article in the Journal of Dentistry. Weakened and eroded enamel may speed up the wear of the tooth and increase the risk of tooth decay developing and spreading. Dr Ren said: 'Most soft drinks, including sodas and fruit juices, are acidic in nature.  'Our studies demonstrated that the orange juice, as an example, can potentially cause significant erosion of teeth. It's potentially a very serisevereous problem for people who drink sodas and fruit juices daily. 'We do not yet have an effective tool to avert the erosive effects, although there are early indications that higher levels of fluoride may help slow down the erosion.'  Dr Ren advises consumers to be aware of the acidic nature of beverages, including sodas, fruit juices, sports and energy drinks.
The longer teeth are in contact with the acidic drinks, the more the erosion will be.  Those who sip their drinks slowly over 20 minutes are more likely to have tooth erosion than those who finish a drink quickly.
Dr Ren said it is important to keep good oral hygiene by brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
The research comes after a recent study revealed that drinking fruit juice dramatically reduces the effectiveness of drugs used to treat cancer, heart conditions and high blood pressure.

Research has shown that orange, apple and grapefruit juice can also wipe out the benefits of some antibiotics and hay-fever pills. It is thought the drinks stop drugs from entering the bloodstream and getting to work in the body - possibly rendering them useless.  The potential effects are so serious, researchers warned, that if in doubt patients should swap fruit juices for water when on medication.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Food for Thought

Study: Organic Food No Better Than Conventional Food

TORONTO, Sept 4  -- Are expensive organic food healthier and more nutritious? A study published Monday suggests maybe not.

American researchers have concluded that there is no real difference in nutritional value or risk for bacterial contamination between organic and conventional foods.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a journal of the American College of Physicians (ACP).

"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. My colleagues and I were a little surprised that we didn't find that," said lead author Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler of Stanford School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

ACP said researchers conducted a review of 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods to compare the health, nutritional and safety characteristics of organic and conventional foods.

"They found that the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods," the group said in a release.

It noted that some organic foods contained higher levels of phenols, a compound that may have antioxidant properties, and that organic milk and chicken contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

"However, the researchers concluded that since few people have phosphorous deficiency, the finding has little clinical significance," ACP said.

It noted that sales of organic food have increased dramatically in the United States in the past few years. Between 1997 and 2010, organic food sales have risen from US$3.6 billion to over US$26 billion annually.

Prices vary, but consumers my pay up to twice as much for organic food versus conventional, ACP said.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chlorine in swimming pools and it's effect on teeth.

Is it possible that spending a lot of time in the swimming pool can stain your teeth or even slowly dissolve your teeth?

First, we take a look into two different questions that many swimmers have regarding their teeth:

1. Can swimming pools stain my teeth?
2. Can swimming pools dissolve my teeth?

Can Swimming Pools Stain Your Teeth?

An interesting discussion on this topic came up in a thread on the U.S. Masters Swimming Forum.  The user ensignada led off with the following question:
I took my 8 year old to the dentist today for a check-up. One of our concerns was the brown discoloration on her two front teeth. The first question the dentist asked was "Is she a tea drinker?" (No). The second question stunned me, "Is she a swimmer?"
Apparently a few of his swim team patients over the years have experienced discoloration. It's not permanent (he was able to scrap her's off). He didn't explain the chemical reaction taking place.
The optimum pH level in a pool is 7.2 to 7.6.  This pH is considered to be basic.  In general, solids dissolve in acid and then precipitate (or become solids again) in bases.  This means that in a basic swimming pool, the calcium and minerals present in your mouth will harden onto your teeth rather than dissolve (as they would if the pH were acidic - this is why your teeth dissolve slowly when you eat or drink anything acidic.)  The higher pH of the swimming pool, in combination with the antimicrobial compounds that the pool water contains, causes proteins in your mouth to break down and get together with minerals in your mouth to form a hard, yellowish-brown mineral deposit on your teeth.

     The result is swimmer's calculus, hard, brown tartar deposits that appear predominantly on the front teeth. "It's a common cosmetic condition among swimmers," says AGD spokesperson J. Frank Collins, DDS, MAGD. Swimmers who notice the stains should talk to their dentist and perhaps increase their dental visits to three or four times a year, advises Dr. Collins.

The Academy of General Dentistry states the following regarding this phenomenon:

      "Athlete swimmers, who often swim laps more than six hours a week, expose their teeth to large amounts of chemically treated water. Pool water contains chemical additives like antimicrobials, which give the water a higher pH than saliva, causing salivary proteins to break down quickly and form organic deposits on swimmer's teeth.  The result is swimmer's calculus, hard, brown tartar deposits that appear predominantly on the front teeth."

To answer the question, swimming a lot can cause you to get yellow to dark brown stains on your teeth that your dentist or dental hygienist should be able to remove for you at a routine cleaning appointment.

Can Swimming Pools Dissolve Your Teeth?

    As mentioned above, the optimal pH level in a pool is 7.2 to 7.6 - teeth start dissolving at a pH below 5.5.  So... could a swimming pool really dissolve your teeth if it is kept at the optimal pH of around 7.4?  The answer is no.  However, if the pH of the swimming pool finds a way to become acidic, then swimming pools can start dissolving your teeth.  This usually occurs in gas-chlorinated pool systems.  When swimming pools are gas-chlorinated, hypochlorous acid is formed.  Normally swimming pools counteract this acid with a strong base, such as ash.  If the swimming pool doesn't get enough base to counter the acid from the chlorine, it can become acidic and start to dissolve the teeth of those who swim.

     The report,, tells the story of a competitive swimmer who swam in a gas-chlorinated swimming pool and experienced notable dental erosion within 27 days!  It says,  "Several reports indicate an increased prevalence of dental erosion among intensive swimmers due to low pH gas-chlorinated pool water...[A] case report is presented which describes the very rapid occurrence of excessive general dental erosion of a competitive swimmer due to gas-chlorinated pool water within 27 days. The observation of several authors as well as this case underscore the significance of a regular pH monitoring of chlorinated swimming pool water. The high incidence indicates that dental erosion due to frequent swimming is of considerable diagnostic and therapeutic significance. Furthermore, it is recommended to fluoridate the teeth of intensive swimmers regularly to prevent dental erosion."

    The article,, even directly mentions that swimming pools can be a cause of tooth erosion, right along with diet and other factors.  It says that "Swimming pools with a low pH due to inadequate maintenance have...been implicated [in dental erosion]."

     For further reading on dental erosion and swimming pools, you can take a look at the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from July 22, 1983.  One interesting statistic that they mention is that only 15% of frequent swimmers displayed enamel erosion while only 3% of infrequent or non-swimmers experienced enamel erosion.

    It is presumed that within the past 30 years, swimming pools are much more careful about testing the pH of their water to ensure that it is not too acidic, but it can still happen due to "inadequate maintenance" as the article above states.


     If you notice that you are getting stained teeth due to swimming, you may want to ask your dentist about coming in for more frequent cleanings.

     If you notice that you are losing some enamel on your teeth due to swimming, you may want to check with your swimming pool to make sure that their pH is within the normal range. Also, it may be a good idea to get frequent fluoride treatments from your dentist.