Tooth Decay Declining

In Adults and Children

Tooth decay fell sharply in the United States among children and teenagers and dipped among adults in the past decade, the government said yesterday, citing fluoridation of water and toothpaste as the major causes for the improvement.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 42 percent of those 6 to 19 years old had had a cavity or filling in their permanent teeth between 1999 and 2002, a 15 percent decrease from the 1988-1994 period.

Tooth decay among adults fell 4 to 6 percent, with 20 percent fewer over the age of 60 reporting that they had lost all their teeth.

"This reduced decay in all ages is really a reflection of the widespread availability of fluoride," said William Maas, director of the CDC's division of oral health.

The United States, amid some political opposition, began adding fluoride to its water supply in the 1950s.

Maas said the increased use of dental sealants -- thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth to prevent pit and fissure decay -- contributed to the progress in children.

Diabetes Associations

Skeptical of Syndrome

U.S. and European diabetes groups questioned whether "metabolic syndrome," a cluster of conditions that raises risks of heart disease and diabetes, is actually a syndrome at all.

The American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes said that doctors should not diagnose metabolic syndrome or prescribe drugs for it because it may not independently affect the likelihood of developing heart disease.

The joint statement may affect how U.S. and European regulators view Sanofi-Aventis's experimental anti-obesity drug Acomplia (chemical name rimonabant), which the company said targets "cardiometabolic risk factors."

"The combination of risk factors doesn't add up to a more significant or higher cardiovascular risk than the individual components," said Richard Kahn, the American Diabetes Association's chief scientific officer.

The groups said doctors should treat each factor, such as high blood pressure, excess weight and low levels of "good" cholesterol, individually.

Poll Shows More Seniors

Approve of Drug Plan

The percentage of seniors who like the new Medicare drug benefit has nearly doubled since February 2004 after promotional campaigns by the government, drugmakers and consumer groups, a poll found.

The Kaiser Family Foundation polled 300 seniors by telephone earlier this month. It found that the percentage of those who favor the plan and those who do not is even at 32 percent. In February, a similar foundation poll showed 17 percent found it favorable and 55 percent found it unfavorable.

Although more seniors said they liked the plan, only one-third said they will definitely enroll. In October, seniors start getting details about drug plans that will be available to them under Medicare, and they can enroll beginning in November.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

-- From News Services