Victoria Hewson (MSc, BSc (Hons), SFHEA, RDN) @HewsonVictoria, is Head of the Nursing Department and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull, UK
The 20th March 2021 marks World Oral Health Day1, a key opportunity for health and care professionals to promote positive oral health messages and encourage the public to focus on the importance of oral health for overall general health. Oral health is an integral part of a persons’ general health2 . Evidence suggests that poor oral health can result in pain, sleepless nights, reduced levels of confidence, poor self-esteem and is associated with low oral health–related quality of life3. The impact of dental disease and the associated treatment can last throughout the lifespan. This affects individual health and wellbeing with subsequent impacts on other health and social care services. Dental disease including periodontal disease and dental caries are largely preventable4. Demand for dental services remains high and the Coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted dental access resulting in a backlog of patients requiring non-urgent examinations and treatment which will take time to recover5.
In 2019, Public Health England (PHE)6 published an Adult Oral Health resource as part of the ‘All Our Health’ framework to assist health and care professionals to promote health and prevent ill health as part of their everyday practice. This resource supports front line health and care staff to maximize their relationships with patients and the public to promote adults’ oral health whilst supporting positive behavior change and a healthier lifestyle. It also provides strategic recommendations for leaders and managers across the sector to implement and lead change.
It is essential that frontline health and care professionals engage with implementing this guidance. Using this resource to understand what they can do to help prevent dental disease and assist patients and communities to maintain a good level of oral health.
Key oral health messages can be found in this guidance6 such as;
- Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste containing 1350 to 1500ppm fluoride – last thing at night, and on at least one other occasion
- Avoid smoking and other tobacco products, and staying within the recommended level of alcohol consumption
- visiting a dentist regularly for check-ups, even if they have no teeth or are free from any apparent problems with their mouth or teeth
- seeing a dentist urgently if they have any non-healing, non-painful ulcer present for 2 weeks or longer
- Those with dentures should clean teeth and dentures twice a day, especially just before bed. They should also leave dentures out of the mouth while sleeping
- Limit unhealthy food and drinks. The amount and frequency of sugary food and drink should be reduced, restricted to mealtimes, and avoided before bedtime
- One glass of 150ml unsweetened fruit juice counts as one of your ‘5 a day’, but should be limited to no more than 150ml a day, and be consumed at meal times
- Ask for sugar- free medicines if required
It is clear that the prevention is a key priority in health care with emphasis on a place-led health care system. Effective place-based leaders are moving their thinking beyond the integration of health and social care to develop a shared vison aligned to their combined resources and using this as the basis for joint action in accordance with the NHS Long term plan7. The dental profession have a key opportunity to work with other health and care professionals to drive preventive measures to improve oral and general health of the population.
A preventative approach is central to improving the oral health of the population, minimizing impact on health and wellbeing and ensuring a sustainable health and care system. ‘Adult Oral Health: applying all our health guidance’6 offers an opportunity and implementation strategy for professionals across health and care disciplines to lead the way and deliver an innovative and preventative approach informed by evidence-based practice. It is time to act and focus on the importance of oral health for general health because a healthy mouth can help you live a happier and healthier life.
- FDI World Dental Federation (2021) World Oral Health Day: Be proud of your mouth. https://www.worldoralhealthday.org/campaign-theme-2021-2023 [Accessed 10th March 2021].
- Public Health England (2017) Delivering Better Oral health: An evidence- based toolkit for Prevention. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/605266/Delivering_better_oral_health.pdf [Accessed 10th March 2021].
- Ortiz-Barrios L, Grandos- Garcia V, Sanchez-Garcia S (2019) The impact of poor oral health on the oral – health related quality of life in older adults: the oral health status through a latent class analysis. BMC Oral Health 19 (141).
- Levine R & Stillman- Lowe C (2019) The Scientific Basis of Oral Health Education. British Dental Journal Clinician’s Guides.
- General Dental Council (2020) The impact of COVID-19 on dental Professionals. https://www.gdc-uk.org/about-us/what-we-do/research/our-research-library/detail/report/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-dental-professionals [Accessed 10th March 2021].
- Public Health England (2019) Adult Oral Health: applying All Our Health. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adult-oral-health-applying-all-our-health/adult-oral-health-applying-all-our-health [Accessed 10th March 2021].
- NHS (2019) The NHS Long term Plan. https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/nhs-long-term-plan-version-1.2.pdf [Accessed 10th March 2021].