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HEALTH

No evidence braces have health benefits for teeth, Health Ministry report finds

A meta-study commissioned by the German Health Ministry has come to the startling conclusion that there is no proof that braces provide any benefits for our dental health.

No evidence braces have health benefits for teeth, Health Ministry report finds
A child with braces. Photo: DPA

The research conducted by the IGES Institute in Berlin concluded that “with regard to the diagnostic and therapeutic orthodontic measures, no conclusion can be drawn about a patient-relevant benefit.”

SEE ALSO: German healthcare – everything you need to know

In layman’s terms, the meta-study, which examined all previous studies into the health benefits of orthodontic treatments, came to the conclusion that braces and similar measures to alter tooth structure have no proven health benefits.

The report said it was “noticeable” that none of the long term studies into the benefits of braces had collected data on their impact on tooth loss, periodontitis and other secondary diseases.

While no benefits to dental health could be found, the report noted that patients believed that aesthetic benefits of straighter teeth improved their quality of life.

With German health insurers paying an estimated €1.1 billion in 2017 alone for orthodontic treatment, the conclusions could put pressure on federal authorities to reassess whether braces are a necessary health measure. If they were struck from the list of necessary treatments, insurances companies would no longer be legally obliged to pay for them.

Pushed onto the back foot by its own report, the Health Ministry said that while the study showed there was no proof that orthodontic treatment has health benefits, “it also does not rule it out”.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday that he had “no doubts about” the necessity of orthodontic treatment.

The ministry also stated that it was not its job to rule on what is and is not a necessary health treatment. This is a duty carried out by the Federal Joint Committee, a body of health experts that includes doctors, dentists and insurers.

The ministry said it would now “discuss further research needs and recommendations for action” with insurers and medical experts.

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COVID-19

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 

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People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.

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