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Oral Care and Health Daily

Lose Fat … With Your Dentist’s Help?

A new study found that dentists want to help patients lose fat by pointing out a weight issue -- but...

How would you feel if at your next dental visit, your dentist mentioned that you’d gained weight?

It could happen: In a new study, a University of North Carolina researcher found that half the dentists surveyed would like to help their patients with their weight as well as their dental health.

“There is a relationship between obesity and oral health,” says Dr. Alice E. Curran, the study’s lead author. Being overweight raises the risk of diabetes, which in turn boosts the likelihood of gum disease.

Most people see their dentists more often than their doctors, so dentists are in a unique position to identify weight problems early. “Dentists can then refer their patients to a specialist,” says Curran.

Dentists’ Role in Fat Loss: Their Opinion
Despite dentists’ desire to be leaders in the fight against obesity, Dr. Curran’s study found that less than 5 percent actually offer to help their overweight patients, because they don’t want to offend their patients or appear judgmental. Some agree that it’s just not their role: “My focus is on my patients’ dental health, including dietary habits that may affect their overall health, but not specifically on weight gain,” says Dr. Bruno Sharp, a Miami prosthodontist.

Others, on the other hand, insist they should be explicit about the risks of gaining weight. “I absolutely talk to my patients regarding weight and diet because it is directly related to their oral health,” says Dr. Grace Yum, a pediatric dentist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “Whenever necessary, I am not shy about respectfully and constructively bringing up the connection between sugars, dental health, weight and overall health. I do that because it is in my patients’ best interests -- what is most important to me is helping my patients be as healthy as possible.”

Dentists’ Role in Fat Loss: Your Opinion
How would you feel if your dentist mentioned that you seemed to be gaining weight or offered advice on how to slim down?

  1. I’m all for it -- the more health professionals fighting obesity, the better!
  2. How rude. What’s next, an eye doctor commenting on my hairstyle? I pay the dentist to treat my oral health -- that’s it.
  3. Not sure. …

Chime in on the message board below!