Involve dentists in wider disease prevention

DENTISTS could play a much wider role in detecting health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, says the Faculty of Dental Surgery.

The FDS has published a Position Statement on oral health and general health suggesting that dentistry could be better utilised in the diagnosis of certain wider health problems and also in providing preventative health advice.

Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the FDS at the Royal College of Surgeons said: "Good oral health is essential for our overall wellbeing. In recent years there has been increasing evidence of the link between oral health and general health. Dentists and other members of the oral healthcare team always inspect a patient's mouth in the course of treatment. This provides them with an opportunity to monitor, on an ongoing basis, how their patient's health is changing.

“While checking a patient's oral health, they can look for relevant signs of other conditions – chronic gum disease can be an indicator of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, for example. They can also offer advice on what dietary and lifestyle changes patients could make to improve their overall health, which can also help to prevent conditions such as obesity and oral cancer."

The FDS is recommending specifically that oral health should be included in the government's upcoming Green Paper on Prevention due to be published later this year. It believes that dentists should be involved in all national and local public health campaigns and in the delivery of health and lifestyle advice.

Initiatives to diagnose diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as other conditions such as child obesity and eating disorders, should engage dentists and other oral health professionals, and the links between oral health and general health should be part of all healthcare training and continuing professional development.

Figures from NHS Digital indicate that over half (50.4 per cent) of adults in England were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months to 31 December 2018, suggesting that dentists and oral health professionals are well placed to play a broader role in supporting patients' general health.