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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Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination.