As 2017 begins we enter what promises to be another exciting and intriguing year in the world of dentistry. This year we hope to see many areas of interest which have been a long time in the making finally come to fruition, with some elements promising to have a significant impact on all of our oral health for years to come.
We look at our seven things to keep an eye out for in throughout the coming year in dentistry:
1. New contract on the horizon
A long time in the making and edging ever closer, the new dental contract is something which will undoubtedly help shape Britain's dental health for generations to come. Although we are unlikely to see it introduced nationwide before 2018, this year we will be watching with vested interest as many of the current trails come to an end, will we finally see the focus on preventative dentistry come to fore?
2. Will local authorities take control?
At the very end of last year, NICE released their guidance on oral health in communities with recommendations for local authorities to become more involved in signposting available services to people in their area to help the spread of dental disease. This year we hope to see them show just how committed they are to oral health as we wait to see if they truly grasp the vitally important role they can play in promoting better oral health within their communities.
3. Fight for fluoride
In 2017 Hull is officially the UKs City of Culture and with it comes the prestige befitting such an accolade. Hull is also leading the way when it comes to beating tooth decay too, as it was approved in October last year that fluoride will be added to the local water supply. Comprehensively proven to reduce tooth decay in areas with it, fluoridated water will help to protect tens of thousands of people from entirely preventable oral health problems. We can only hope that other local authorities soon see the benefit and help protect more people across the country.
4. Children's dental health improvements?
Headlines about children's dental health have made for depressing reading in recent years, last year more than 33,000 children had to be admitted to hospital to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic. What is heart-breaking is that almost every single case is entirely preventable with the right education and preventive measures put into place. In 2017 we hope to see the various child dental health programmes which have been introduced in the UK in recent years finally make an impact on levels of tooth decay up and down the country.
5. Brexit and dentistry
The Brexit has left many things in limbo and dentistry is no different, as the year progresses we hope to find out more about just what Brexit will mean to dentistry. What impact will there be on the dental workforce in the UK in the future, particularly for corporate dentists who are traditionally large employers of EU dentists. Will it impact the cost of dental treatment or products? Most things are currently unknown and I am afraid all we can do for now is monitor developments closely.
6. HPV jabs for the boys - will there finally be action?
A decision on gender-neutral vaccinations in the UK is predicted to be finally made in Q4 2017. As it stands this decision has already taken far too long, with successive governments delaying to such a degree that they have put hundreds of thousands of boys at risk of developing mouth cancer, as well as many other related life threatening diseases. Mouth cancer rates yet again rose last year, with Cancer Research highlighting the shocking rise over recent years, these constant delays are costing lives. We hope to finally get a decision in 2017 and with public voices of support are getting louder and louder this is an issue we believe can no longer be ignored.
7. Brand new Dental Showcase
In a somewhat surprising development least year, the UK's largest dental trade show, Dental Showcase, was sold by the BDIA to its new owners, George Warman Publications (GWP). With this unexpected change, we are excited to find out what will happen at this year's Dental Showcase at the NEC in October. As part of the Mark Allen Group, GWP has a great pedigree in hosting trade shows with appeal for all comers and we hope that they can grow the success that the BDIA have been able to achieve already. We are also interested to discover the role the BDIA will play in the promotion of dental industry interests going forward, let's hope together we can continue to bring dental health advice to more people than ever.
That's our brief run down on what we have our eyes on in 2017. On a personal level, I will also be taking up the mantle of Chairman of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe, combined with my role at the Oral Health Foundation I hope that we can continue to influence the public agenda and make sure dental health is part of the mainstream going forward.
BDA Comment on letter to Daily Telegraph
The British Dental Association has commented on publication of a letter from dental professionals in today's Daily Telegraph, which calls for the dental system in England to be removed from politician’s hands completely. 
BDA chair Mick Armstrong said:
"We share concerns about the failings of the current NHS dental system, and have consistently called for change with a square focus on prevention.
"Consistent failure from government should not diminish the work of NHS dentists, who are delivering high quality care for their patients in very difficult circumstances.
"The real problem here is ministerial indifference. We need to see politicians more engaged on oral health and NHS dentistry, not any further removed."
 Letters: It's time to take NHS dentistry out of the hands of inept politicians, Telegraph, 2 January 2017
Diet debate: Are diet drinks a no-go?
It's rare in life to have your cake and eat it. But are low-calorie sweeteners the guilt-free way to be naughty?
Nobody is going to claim that regularly drinking full-sugar pop is good for you with a 500ml bottle of cola containing around 200 calories.
But a diet version can come in at just the one calorie.
Simple logic would suggest that swapping a full sugar drink for a diet version cuts calories from your diet.
And yet such drinks have a mixed reputation.
A fresh review by Imperial College London has argued there is "no solid evidence" that low-calorie sweeteners are any better for weight-loss than full-sugar drinks.
And they challenged the idea that such drinks are automatically healthier.
Meanwhile there is public concern about some sweeteners and groups of scientists have argued that low-calorie sweeteners may lead to weight gain and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
So do they have a place in our shopping baskets?
"A lot of people assume they must be healthy choices because they are not sugared beverages, but the critical thing for people to understand is we don't have the evidence," said Prof Susan Swithers, from the US's Purdue University.
Studies looking at large groups of people have shown obese people tend to drink more fizzy diet drinks than those of a healthy weight.
A study of US adults in the American Journal of Public Health showed 11% who were a healthy weight, 19% of those who were overweight and 22% who were obese drank diet beverages.
And a study in the journal Obesity that followed 3,700 people for eight years showed those consuming the low-calorie sweeteners put on the most weight.
The researchers were left asking the question: "Are artificial sweeteners fuelling, rather than fighting, the very epidemic they were designed to block?"
But it is impossible to determine cause and effect in such studies. Are the drinks causing weight gain or are obese people turning to diet drinks in an effort to control their weight?
Prof Swithers' experiments on rats suggest the drinks alter the way the body deals with normal sugar, which could lead to weight-gain.
When sugar hits the tongue it gives us that delicious hit of sweetness, but also tells the body that food is on the way.
But with zero-calorie sweeteners that same message is sent, but no food arrives. The argument is the link between sweetness and calories has been broken.
Prof Swithers told me: "We think the diet sodas may be bad because they make it hard to deal with the sugar you are consuming.
"When the animals get real sugar they're not as good at processing it, their hormonal responses get blunted, their blood sugar levels go up and it leads to weight gain."
She also points out another problem - compensation. When you know you are taking calories out of one part of your diet you tend to eat more somewhere else.
"I had a diet beverage therefore I can have a cookie," she said - it's the same effect that has been well documented after we hit the gym.