Dentists could be playing a ‘key role’ in detecting patients with eating disorders, new research has suggested.
Researchers from Kings College London found that many eating disorder conditions, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, result in erosion of the tooth enamel.
Many patients may be reluctant to visit a doctor, but may still visit dentists for treatment of conditions such as tooth wear.
‘Dentists are uniquely placed to provide an early warning for eating disorders, so it’s tragic that they have been left out of the equation,’ BDA chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said.
‘Left without the time, training or appropriate pathways to refer patients, we cannot unlock this potential.
‘The NHS desperately needs to deliver a joined-up approach to healthcare.
‘When it comes to anorexia and bulimia our patients cannot afford silo working or policymaking.
‘Ultimately a contract system that puts Government targets before patient care remains a major barrier.
‘Unless the NHS is prepared to value the life-changing interventions dentists can make we cannot make progress.’
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The British Dental Association (BDA) claims NHS dentists are hamstrung in aiding patients with eating disorders.
It’s estimated that around 725,000 people in the UK currently suffer from an eating disorder, costing around £15 billion every year.
The BDA is now calling on NICE to provide clarity on onward referrals for dentists treating patients with a suspected eating disorder.