Sweet teeth: A Washington dentist has won a prestigious national award from the American Dental Association for a film he made -- on a shoestring and with mostly volunteer help -- designed to alert new mothers to the perils of putting the baby and the bottle to bed together.
Dr. Stan Shulman, who spent three years in Bethel, Alaska, with the Public Health Service, found that an inordinate number of preschoolers in that Southwest Alaska town were turning up with what the dentists call "nursing caries," or "nursing bottle mouth."
In an effort to get the word out to residents of Bethel and outlying villages, Shulman won a small ($800) grant and the support of volunteer technicians to make the film: a graphic homily on the evils of bottles in bed.
Bottles of milk or sugary juices -- fresh or the Tang or Kool-aid variety -- may be just fine for babies, but not propped up for babies to go to sleep on. It's a temptation, especially when there are lots of other youngsters around competing for Mom's attentions. But what happens when juices, milk or sugar-water pool around a baby's tiny, pearly teeth is pain for baby, expense for parents, possible crooked second teeth, systemic involvement when infection spreads. There is also the unhealthy sugar habit a child may be getting into and -- not the least of it -- conditioning the baby forever to associate the dentist with pain.
Word from the Yukon-Kuskawin delta where the 10-minute film was shown in English and translated into Yupic (an Eskimo dialect) is that 18 months after new mothers began to be shown the film routinely, incidence of the problem seems to have begun to decline.
The film now has been translated into Spanish and the English and Spanish versions are being shown in about 200 hospitals nationwide.
The $2,000 award for the best preventive dentistry project will be used, says Shulman, to help promote the film wherever it can be useful. Dentists are not certain why some babies are more susceptible than others and why the syndrome often seems concentrated in certain geographic areas, although fluoride-treated water may be affording some protection. Cassettes of the film will be available soon through the American Dental Association.
For more information write Dr. Stan Shulman, 4500 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20008.
No whoops: There's been a flurry of excitement about news that the FDA has approved a drug-imbued plastic disc that, when applied behind the ear, will continuously administer a dose of seasick medicine, in this case scopolamine.
However, the Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics noted recently that side effects common with orally-administered scopolamine are also present when the disc was used. Moreover, the disc takes several hours to become effective.
Meanwhile, an article in Motor Boating & Sailing Magazine reports that a New York physician, also an avid sailor, has used principles of acupressure to create a device that has been 70 percent effective, he claims, in preventing seasickness. Dr. Daniel Shu Jen Choy's "seasick strap" is worn on both wrists and reportedly is also useful for morning sickness.
For information, write Acu-Health, 3020 Bridgeway 20, Sausalito, Calif. 94965.
Following up: A recent Healthtalk on helping women weather the anguish of miscarriage produced the information that a support group called MIS (acronym for Miscarriage, Infant Death and Stillborn) has been formed in this area as a subgroup to the Tyson's Corner chapter of Compassionate Friends (the international support group for bereaved parents).
Chris Sallada, who speaks for the group, says it will work closely with George Washington University's Dr. Elisabeth Herz and her program. A representative of MIS, for example, will speak at a Herz seminar with obstetrical residents.
For more information, call 703-979-2951, or write MIS, 1101 S. Arlington Ridge Rd., Number 1211, Arlington, Va. 22202.