02 Feb

New study set to explore role of dentists in reducing obesity rates

A new study is set to explore the role dentists could play in reducing rates of obesity.

Led by a team at Loughborough University, the study will investigate how dentists could help to lower the risks of obesity. Researchers believe that dental professionals could play an integral role in helping patients to adopt healthier lifestyle choices, based on the role they already have helping individuals to stop smoking and reduce sugar consumption.

Dentists deliver important oral health messages during consultations, but researchers believe that their role in tackling rising rates of obesity is often “overlooked.”

Amanda Daley, professor of behavioural medicine at the Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour at the university, explained that there is a “strong” case for dentists playing a more proactive role in “reducing population obesity.” Dentists are an instrumental part of the primary care system, and they see patients on a regular basis.

They are, Prof Daley suggested, “ideally positioned” to screen patients and recommend interventions “at scale.” Most patients visit their dentist once a year, which means that dentists could monitor weight and offer advice to children and adults.

The new study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, will run for two years. During the study, the research team will work with dentists to determine how they can help patients to lose weight safely and embrace healthy living.

As part of the programme, the team will be using guidelines from the NHS’ ‘Making Every Contact Count’ campaign, which encourages health professionals to work collaboratively.

The researchers will be providing training for dentists to help them engage in positive, constructive conversations about weight management and losing weight healthily. Dentist, Jessica Large, is currently working with the project team and said that it is “important that we look at how all health professionals are able to contribute to reducing obesity in the public.”

Recent NHS data suggests that 67% of men and 60% of women in the UK are either overweight or obese.