Dentists can play a greater role in the detection of some general health conditions, the Faculty of Dental Surgery says.

The suggestion comes with growing evidence linking oral health general health.

Earlier this week a study found poor oral health can cause muscular weakness and sudden weight loss in elderly people.

‘Good oral health is essential for our overall wellbeing,’ Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, said

‘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.’

Recommendations

Recommendations come as the FDS publishes its ‘Position statement on oral health and general health’.

In the statement, the FDS is recommending:

  • Oral health should be included in the government’s upcoming green paper on prevention
  • The Healthy Living Dentistry programme should be rolled out nationally
  • National and local public health campaigns should always utilise dentists in the delivery of health and lifestyle advice
  • Initiatives to diagnose diabetes and cardiovascular disease should engage dentists and oral health professionals wherever possible
  • Healthcare professionals should cover the links between oral health and general health as part of their initial training and CPD
  • Concerted action is needed to improve oral care and access to dental services for older people.

‘Chronic gum disease can be an indicator of diabetes and cardiovascular disease,’ Professor Escudier continued.

‘They (dentists and dental professionals) can offer advice on what dietary and lifestyle changes patients could make to improve their overall health.

‘This can also help to prevent conditions such as obesity and oral cancer.’

Oral health links

Current evidence shows a number of associations between diabetes and oral diseases.

There is also a recognised association between oral disease (particularly chronic gum disease) and cardiovascular diseases.

Recent research shows looking after oral health following a heart attack could help survivors’ cardiovascular systems recover.

‘This is incredibly interesting research, which could offer hope to the future of millions of people affected by cardiovascular disease,’ Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said at the time.

‘There has been evidence for some time that gum disease increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

‘But to now understand that preventing gum disease can also prevent further problems for victims of a heart attack opens up many interesting avenues for ongoing treatment.

‘This study certainly suggests that good oral health could significantly improve the outcome of patients who have a heart attack.

‘We eagerly welcome more research into this.’


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