Dentists should screen patients for alcohol abuse

Professor Jonathan Shepherd’s paper “Alcohol misuse: screening and treatment in primary dental care" advises dentists to screen their patients for alcohol abuse . He said: “The dental team has a responsibility to promote overall health and not just dental health. Dentists and the Government must work together to develop and deliver screening and treatment by intervening early.”

The paper was published in the April edition of the Royal College of Surgeon's Dental Journal. In a report the authors warn that excessive alcohol consumption causes mouth cancer and dental disease. According to the experts, in order to tackle this as fast as possible, screening and treatment for alcohol abuse is critical.
The paper says individuals do not visit their GP unless they are ill, whereas the majority of people visit their dentist for a routine check-up, as a result dentists have the chance to identify alcohol abuse.
Given that questioning patients with regard to their alcohol consumption is a routine component of understanding their overall health, making standard questions about alcohol consumption more explicit under the new policy proposals could provide a new opportunity to help people in their fight against drinking problems, which has so far been left untouched.
According to the paper, approximately 1 in 5 men in the UK and 1 in 7 women often drink excessive amounts of alcohol - costing the UK economy around £25 billion every year. Encouraging moderation in alcohol consumption in primary dental settings could help to lower the social, economic and health burdens linked to excessive alcohol consumption.
The authors state that identifying and tackling alcohol abuse at the dentist would significantly contribute towards the Government's health priorities.

 

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