Over 50% of the global population are living with being overweight and are at increased risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
GPs and practice nurses have for some time used their patient consultations to raise the subject of weight management. But despite dentists already delivering behaviour change messages for oral health during their consultations – for example smoking cessation and reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages – the role they can play in tackling obesity has so far been overlooked.
Now researchers from Loughborough will be working directly with dentists to assess how they can provide weight management interventions to their patients.
It will look at what can be learnt from the NHS Making Every Contact Count Campaign, providing training for dentists on how to have constructive conversations about weight management with their patients.
Speaking about the project, she said: ‘The case for dentists to be involved in reducing population obesity is strong. Like GPs, dentists are part of primary care health services and are ideally positioned to screen and intervene to reduce obesity.
‘They typically consult with most of the population at least yearly, meaning they could routinely embed efficient monitoring of weight into dental health services and offer interventions at scale to both adults and children.
‘If we are serious about reducing obesity in the population it will require an “all hands-on deck” approach, including active advocacy from dental health professionals.”
Jessica Large, a dentist working with the project team, said: ‘It is important that we look at how all health professionals are able to contribute to reducing obesity in the public, and dentists might be able to help in a positive way to achieve this.
‘Routine body mass index screening for children and healthy weight discussions are already ongoing in some hospital dental settings, with positive feedback from families and dental teams. I am looking forward to exploring the wider acceptability among the profession and public.’
The research is being funded via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship programme and will run for two years.