Knowledge of patient’s lifestyles ‘a must’ to improve oral health

First outlined in the Health and Social Care Bill, a panel of Government advisers has recommended all health professionals “make every contact count”, a move met by criticism in some quarters of the health sector.

With oral health greatly affected by diet, exercise, smoking and drinking habits, the British Dental Health Foundation believes the move will hopefully encourage more people to consider how their lifestyle could be affecting not just their health, but also their oral health.

Previous research has shown frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks can damage oral health, while studies have also demonstrated people who stay fit and healthy are 40 per cent less likely to develop tooth-threatening gum infections that could lead to gum disease.

Mouth cancer also remains a big issue in the UK with the incidence of mouth cancer cases rising by 46 per cent since 1997. An estimated 30,000 people will die from the disease over the next decade unless more is done to change lifestyles, especially attitudes to smoking, alcohol, diet and exercise – some of the main risk factors for mouth cancer.

Chief Executive of the Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, declared the Foundation’s support for the recommendations in order to drive oral health improvements across the UK.

Dr Carter said: “We know people will only change their ways if they want to, but by approaching the topic of lifestyle on a regular basis, healthcare professionals will at least know they have given the patient the information needed to improve their health and well-being.

“Taking the time out to discuss a patient’s smoking habit, alcohol consumption levels or poor diet could save lives, as all of those are associated with the risk of developing mouth cancer.

“Finding out that a patient doesn’t brush their teeth two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste could potentially set them on the road to developing a good routine and save them having to endure restorative or emergency work later in life.

“If the healthcare profession and particularly the dental profession discussed with their patients how their oral health could be improved, I firmly believe we would see the number of developing dental diseases fall across a period of time.”