How can dentists help to tackle obesity?

How can dentists help to tackle obesity?The role dental professionals play in the fight against obesity will be researched in a new study.

More than half of the global population is overweight. This means they are at an increased risk of developing diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and also cancer.

Led by Loughborough University, a research team will look at how dentists can help reduce the level of obesity.

They argue that dentists deliver behaviour change messages for oral health during their consultations. For example information on smoking cessation and reducing the consumption of sugary drinks.

However their role in the fight against tackling obesity, they say, is often ‘overlooked’.

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Key role

Amanda Daley is a professor of behavioural medicine at the university’s Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour.

She said: ‘The case for dentists to be involved in reducing population obesity is strong. Like GPs, dentists are part of primary care health services and are ideally positioned to screen and, therefore, intervene to reduce obesity.

‘They typically consult with most of the population at least yearly, meaning they could routinely embed efficient monitoring of weight into dental health services and offer interventions at scale to both adults and children.

‘If we are serious about reducing obesity in the population it will require an “all hands-on deck” approach, including active advocacy from dental health professionals.’

Drawing on the NHS Making Every Contact Count campaign, the team will also provide training for dentists on how to have constructive conversations about weight management with their patients.

Positive feedback

Jessica Large is a dentist working with the project team. ‘It is important that we look at how all health professionals are able to contribute to reducing obesity in the public,’ she added.

‘Dentists might be able to help in a positive way to achieve this.

‘Routine body mass index screening for children and healthy weight discussions are already ongoing in some hospital dental settings, with positive feedback from families and dental teams. I am looking forward to exploring the wider acceptability amongst the profession and also the public.’

Funded via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship programme, the study will run for two years.


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