Dental teams should screen for diabetes and offer dietary advice in the global battle to control the onslaught of the disease.
World Health Day is on Thursday (7 April) and this year’s campaign focuses on the growing epidemic of the disease, looking at the causes, the costs and the need for prevention.
Some 350 million people around the world have diabetes and this figure is set to more than double in the next 20 years.
In a bid to halt the rise in cases of type 2 diabetes, in particular, Amanda Gallie, president–elect of the British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT), is suggesting dental practices could – and, therefore, should – expand their health remit to include blood glucose testing, diet and wellbeing advice and motivating patients to better health habits, thereby minimising the risk of diabetes.
She said: ‘Preventive health care lies at the very heart of the role of the dental profession and, in primary care, we are better placed than most health providers to alert patients to the early signs of health-threatening behaviours as we see patients so regularly.
‘Offering in-practice screening for diabetes, in the form of blood glucose testing, not only adds value to the patient’s dental experience but also acts as a key marker regarding risk for pre-diabetics and can be a catalyst to discussions about the importance of good dental hygiene and other preventive measures.
‘When we consider the current financial restraints within the NHS – and the seemingly unstoppable increase in chronic conditions such as diabetes – the role of dentistry has never been so important in an overall health care. The government should consider funding these diabetes tests as an investment in the future health of a nation because, with regular screening, and education about preventive measures we can draw attention to this disease and keep the associated health risks at bay.’
Fiona Sandom, president of the BADT added: ‘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 poor diet, and the dangers of smoking and excessive alcohol intake to patients, for example. As many of our members work closely with the public on a daily basis, they are in an excellent position to talk to people about their wellbeing and help them make healthy choices.’
This year, Philip Preshaw, professor of Periodontology and consultant in restorative dentistry at Newcastle University, is the keynote speaker at the BADT’s annual conference – From Cradle to Grey: Developing 21st century strategies for age-related oral care – taking place in Manchester on 23 and 24 September.
He will be addressing the clinical challenges presented by diabetic patients, will look at how the disease increases the risk for periodontitis and will offer an insight into the links between periodontal disease, diabetes and heart disease.
For more information, visit www.badt.org.uk
For more on World Heath Day, visit http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2016/en/