Dental professionals could be ‘crucial in identifying chronic disease’

27 November, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Dental professionals could make a positive difference to public health by being trained to spot some of the key markers of chronic disease, according to new research.

The study, Opportunistic health screening for cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors in primary care dental practices: experiences from a service evaluation and a call to action, published in the British Dental Journal, details how two practices implemented health screen for those attending dental check-ups.

As well as examining their oral health, patients were offered checks for their blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio. Of more than 500 patients seen, 78 per cent had blood pressure values above normal range, more than half (55.8 per cent) were outside the healthy range for BMI, and almost 40 per cent had an above average waist-to-height ratio.

A health check at the dentist could provide reassurance for many patients, and a wake-up call for others

The tests also found just under 17 per cent of patients exhibited out-of-range cholesterol results while high blood glucose values were observed for just over three per cent of those seen. All of the patients whose results were outside of the normal range were verbally advised to make an appointment with their GP for follow-up care.

The study’s authors included Professor Robert Witton and Dr. Martha Paisi from the Peninsula Dental School, which—through its Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise—provides appointments to more than 5,500 patients each year at clinics in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro.

“We already place significant emphasis on training students to provide holistic care for their patients,” said Professor Robert Witton, one of the report’s authors. “We also promote the concept of oral health being an integral part of general health and well-being.

“While there are resource challenges to consider in NHS dentistry, this study shows there are enormous opportunities for dental teams to support their patients and work more closely with our medical and health care colleagues to benefit public health.”

Dr. Janine Doughty, lead author, said: “A health check at the dentist could provide reassurance for many patients, and a wake-up call for others to become healthier. We have someone already sitting in the chair, who visits the dentist every six to 12 months, yet who may not have seen a GP for years. It is simple to give them a few minutes of health checks at the same time.”

Tags: Chronic / disease / GDP

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