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Here and There

Here and There

ITEM-- More than 25 medical centers around the country are investigating the injection of botulinum toxin for the relief of muscle spasm. The treatment was discovered by an ophthalmologist who, in cases of strabismus, injected the stronger eye muscle to make it equal in strength to the weaker eye muscle on the other side. Subsequently, others have used this treatment for the relief of a variety of muscle spasms, including cases of stuttering and involuntary movements of the lips, tongue, and jaws that interfered with chewing and swallowing. For more information, write Movement Disorders Resource Center, The Neurological Institute, Unit 33, 710 W. 168th St., New York, NY 10032.

ITEM-- A recent study compiled for The Wall Street Journal ranked toothbrushes fourth on a list of the fastest-growing products in supermarket sales, after cooking sauces, prepared salads, and coffee creamers.

In another report, tooth-conscious Americans were said to have spent more than $368 million for toothbrushes in the last 12 months-- a jump of 28%. The average price went up from $1.71 to $1.90 as manufacturers competed for sales in this lucrative market with "innovative" features such as efficient shapes, shockabsorber handles, even glow-in-the-dark colors.

Smitty's grocery chain offered a free toothbrush as a promotion for a grand opening. By 10:15 a.m. there was gridlock in the parking lot, and by 10:30 they ran out of toothbrushes.

Experts say all this interest in toothbrushes is due to the health concerns of a generation of baby boomers. Apparently the realization that they may live to be 80 or 90 has caused large numbers of people to consider alternatives to the sets of false teeth of their parents' and grandparents' era.

ITEM-- The President of Bolivia has announced a plan to promote international sales of products other than cocaine that are derived from or associated with the coca leaf. One such product is Co-Dent, which is advertised as "different and very Bolivian". Co-Dent is a toothpaste laced with coca leaf. Coca leaf is not cocaine, but it does contain cocaine. I wouldn't look for this product on your neighborhood supermarket shelves any time soon.

ITEM-- The Census Bureau has revised its projections for U.S. population growth sharply upward-- an expected increase of 50% by 2050-- based on revised estimates of fertility rates, immigration, and longevity. By the end of the century, the number of children under age 18 is expected to increase by 5 million to 70.7 million, with most of the increase 4 million--in the 5-13 age group. This bodes well for orthodontic practices.

The 25-44 age group is projected to remain stable into the next century. This has some implications for the job market, including the orthodontic job market.

The non-Hispanic white population is projected to increase in number, but decrease as a percentage of the population from 75% in 1992 to 53% in 2050. The Hispanic population is expected to increase from 24 million (9% of the population) in 1992 to 81 million (21% of the population) by 2050. The African-American population is projected to increase from 32 million (12% of the population) in 1992 to 62 million (16% of the population) in 2050. People of Asian and Pacific origin are expected to increase from 9 million (3% of the population) in 1992 to 41 million (11% of the population) by 2050. If all this turns out to be true, the combined Hispanic, African-American, and Asian groups will amount to 48% of the population by 2050. Future orthodontists, take note.

Caveat: Census Bureau figures are notoriously inaccurate, being based on guesstimates of fertility rates, immigration, and longevity. Nevertheless, the trends are noteworthy: the likely overall increase in population is good news for orthodontics. The sharp increases in Hispanic and African-American population projections point to opportunities for expanding orthodontic care to population groups previously under-represented in orthodontic offices, as their economic status and health awareness increase.

Caveat No. 2: You will see reports that there has been a baby boomlet with more than 4 million births in the U.S. in each of the last four years, and that there will be a mild slackening off (to 3.8-3.9 million per year) until the year 2007. At that point it is projected that there will be an echo boomlet as the baby boomlet people have children. An important corollary, however, is that immigrant women had a disproportionate number of children last year-- ½ million of the 4 million-plus births.

ITEM-- The Wall Street Journal reported recently that dentists now charge a $3-12 fee per visit to cover the added costs of infection control. Without mentioning the Acer case, the article discussed current infection-control procedures, especially dry-heat sterilization and its potential effect of shortening the lives of hand-pieces and drills.


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