Alex Fok, Ph.D., is the Director of the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics in the School of Dentistry
It’s not every day a dental school hires a nuclear engineer to direct its research center, but that’s just what the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry did in 2007.
Alex Fok, Ph.D. has a vision to apply engineering principles to the design and assessment of dental restorations, which sets him apart in the health sciences. Fok completed his undergrad and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manchester, UK. He worked four years as a nuclear engineer, then joined the faculty of the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering where he worked on stress analysis of the fuel core components of graphite-moderated nuclear reactors
If you know a kindergartener, or were ever a kindergartener, it’s fair to say you’ve heard at some point that the most awesome holiday is Halloween. Why is it better than all the rest? Pillowcases full of candy.
Though a young child’s dream come true, mounds of candy is a mouth’s (and a dentist’s) worst nightmare. Most of us know sugar is bad for teeth, but do we really know why?
We met up with Dr. Dan Shaw, Pediatric dentist and Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatric Dental Clinics at the University of Minnesota to explain just how food affects teeth, and why candy can be so bad.
He broke down the facts, starting with acid attacks.
“An acid attack happens when sugar in our food interacts with the naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths to produce an acid which demineralizes or dissolves the tooth,” said Shaw. “This acid attack starts with the first taste of sugar and goes on for about a 20 minute period, so it takes 20 minutes for a mouth to go back to normal.”
Are there some candies that are real cavity culprits?
If you want to limit the duration and frequency of acid attacks on your teeth, Shaw says the goal is to be aware of how often and how long your teeth are exposed to sugar. So, things like suckers, hard candies and chewy candies, can be problematic.
“Sticky, gooey, chewy candies – like caramels – stick to your teeth and are more harmful in terms of what they will actually do,” explained Shaw. “They are on the teeth longer, causing a longer acid attack.”
Watch his full interview for tips on how to protect teeth from cavities during times of high sugar exposure, like Halloween.
Long before dental materials make it to your mouth, they have to be tested. But rather than have a person chew all day, every day for more than a year, the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB) within the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry came up with a better solution: they designed a mouth which has one sole job. Chewing.
The University of Minnesota’s very own chewing machine, or artificial mouth, helps researchers in the School of Dentistry develop and test restorative dental materials.
Dr. Alex Fok, academic director of the MDRCBB, took some time to chat with Health Talk about how the machine chews.
Recognized as one of the top ten great public health achievements of the 20th century by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s not often explained why water fluoridation is deemed so important for our health.
So why do all Minnesota municipal water supplies mandate fluoridation?
We asked Robert Jones, Ph.D., D.D.S., assistant professor and pediatric dentist in the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry to help us understand.
Despite the fact oral cancer is diagnosed in 30,000 Americans each year – and less than 60 percent of those diagnosed will survive – many people lack any real familiarity with the condition.
To combat these trends, Nelson Rhodus, D.M.D., M.P.H., from the Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry, wants to put a bright spotlight squarely on oral cancer’s risk factors.
“Oral cancer is one of the most curable diseases when caught early, but most people don’t know the warning signs,” said Rhodus. “When early-stage oral cancer is found, treatment is simple, less invasive and more than 90 percent successful. The problem is most people don’t know what to ask their dentist.”