The last bite (January)

11 January 2022
2 min read

Alpha, beta…
First and foremost my best wishes for a Happy New Year to our readers. I hope, as we all do, that 2022 will be an improvement on 2021, and certainly on 2020 as we gradually leave the worst of the coronavirus crisis behind; albeit with ongoing variant challenges.

One small but unanticipated biproduct of the pandemic has been an increase in the awareness of Greek letters thanks to the naming of the coronavirus variants in alphabetical order. Omicron is regarded as the forerunner of ‘our’ letter ‘o’ preceded by xi, which has apparently been omitted from the virus sequence so as not to cause offence to the current president of China. But what happened to the other sibling viruses between delta and omicron? Where was epsilon? What did zeta look like and how mutant was mu?

It is fascinating to speculate on what happens when we get to omega. We can’t really move to the phonetic sequence as that also begins alpha, nor steal the weather forecasters’ storm names, so how about dental conditions instead: amelogenesis, bifurcation, caries …? Suggestions for ‘z’ please.

Winter consumables
With the Beijing Winter Olympics opening at the start of next month all eyes will be on the health credential of the sponsors. A recent report from the Children’s Food Campaign and Food Active showed the impact of junk food advertising in sport on people’s health. The two campaign groups are calling on the government to include sports sponsorship in all future healthier advertising and marketing regulations for food and drink. They also want sports associations to refuse further sponsorship deals that include marketing less healthy food or drink brands, and high-profile athletes and sports personalities to use their influence to support healthy food programmes and refuse to work with less healthy brands.

Winter sports seem to have a less immediate connection with consuming ‘bad’ items – perhaps yearning for a hot chocolate after a chilly ski run or a cosy mulled wine following a day’s speed skating. Then again marketing creativity has few boundaries – ski jumps shaped like confectionery bars, snowboards as burgers or ice rinks as frozen beverages? Let’s have a toasted marshmallow while we keep track.

Let me give you a reading
New research has identified that measurements of neonatal lines in the enamel of deciduous teeth may help identify children at risk for depression and other mental health disorders later in life. The senior author likens the process to the way in which the growth of annular rings in trees varies according to changes in climate. She describes how exposure to sources of physical stress, such as poor nutrition or disease, can affect the formation of dental enamel and result in pronounced growth lines within teeth, called stress lines. While the knowledge of variations in enamel growth are not new it does make one wonder whether there might be the germ of a new profession here; fortune telling by teeth.