That’s according to Fiona Sandom, president of the British Association of Therapists (BADT), who maintains that dental therapists are perfectly placed to champion the NHS programme of ‘Making every contact count’.
In a drive to get UK health professionals to change the lifestyle choices and behaviour of patients, the nationwide ‘Making every contact count’ programme – launched in 2012 and based on research by the NHS Future Forum – invites NHS frontline workers to engage patients in a ‘healthy lifestyle chat’.
And Fiona believes that dental therapists should be at the forefront of this health promotion, with a key opportunity to change the habits of a nation by encouraging patients to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviours such as:
- Smoking cessation
- A healthier diet
- Alcohol reduction.
As well as identifying oral problems, the education of patients about links between oral health and their overall health plays a large part in the care dental therapists are trained to provide.
Fiona said: ‘Effective health promotion and prevention of oral disease, including supporting general health improvement activities around diet and nutrition, are key parts of what dental therapists do.
‘Day in day out, they deliver oral health care that’s evidence based, while offering education about the risks of alcohol and tobacco to patients, for example.
‘As many of our members work closely with the public on a day-to-day basis, they are in an excellent position to talk to people about their wellbeing and help them make healthy choices.’
She added: ‘There has been a lot of coverage in the press recently that paints a negative picture of a public disillusioned with our profession.
‘Whatever the evidence of this might be, our real-life experience is one of positivity and we are here to support patients by providing health advice and promoting a healthier lifestyle.’
The drive by the NHS Future Forum to ‘make every contact count’ was launched with the acknowledgement that ‘there are millions of opportunities every day for the NHS to help to improve people’s health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities, but to take this opportunity it needs a different view of how to use its contacts with the public.
‘A routine dental check-up or eye-test, for example, is a chance to offer advice to help someone stop smoking.’
In recognition of dental therapists as health ‘game changers’, the BADT is this year rewarding qualifying dental therapy students with achievement awards in a bid to encourage excellence in prevention.
Each dental therapy school will be invited to nominate a key student and the winners will be invited to join Fiona at her table at the presidential dinner taking place at the BADT annual conference on 25-26 September.