FDS says dentists could play greater role in detecting disease

FDS says dentists could play greater role in detecting disease

Dentists could play a greater role in detecting health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease the Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, Professor Michael Escudier, has said.  He pointed out that while examining the patient’s mouth there was the opportunity to monitor the state of their general health. He spoke out as the FDS published its ‘Position Statement on oral health and general health’.

Professor Escudier said: “Good oral health is essential for our overall wellbeing.  In recent years there has been increasing evidence of the link between oral health and general health. 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 – chronic gum disease can be an indicator of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, for example. They can also offer advice on what dietary and lifestyle changes patients could make to improve their overall health, which can also help to prevent conditions such as obesity and oral cancer.”

In order to maximise the impact that dentists and oral health professionals can have in supporting their patients’ general health, the FDS recommends that:

  • Oral health should be included in the government’s upcoming Green Paper on Prevention, which the Department for Health and Social Care has suggested will be published later this year. 
  • The Healthy Living Dentistry programme, which has already been established in Greater Manchester, should be rolled out nationally, with lessons learned from the successful Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme.
  • National and local public health campaigns should always utilise dentists in the delivery of health and lifestyle advice. Awareness should also be raised amongst the general public about the links between oral health and general health, and particularly the importance of seeing a dentist on a regular basis.
  • Initiatives to diagnose diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as other conditions such as child obesity and eating disorders, should engage dentists and oral health professionals wherever possible.
  • All healthcare professionals should cover the links between oral health and general health as part of their initial training and continuing professional development, so that this is understood across different disciplines.
  • Concerted action is needed to improve oral care and access to dental services for older people, including those living in care homes.

The FDS points out that figures from NHS Digital indicate that over half (50.4%) of adults in England were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months to 31 December 2018, suggesting that dentists and oral health professionals are well placed to play a broader role in supporting patients’ general health. 

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