Dentists to screen for alcohol abuse4th April 2012
Dentists could soon be routinely asking their patients how much they drink.
The government is proposing that dentists should question their patients on alcohol consumption, or that dental receptionists hand out drinking questionnaires to patients to be filled in while they wait for appointments.
The plans have been drawn up by dentists at Cardiff University to try to combat excessive drinking.
Patients who are deemed to drink too much would be referred on to sessions with dental nurses or hygienists for advice on cutting down.
The move follows a recent proposal to give family doctors a bonus for asking patients about their drinking habits, though dentists feel they are better placed to spot any problems and warning signs of excessive drinking such as tooth decay or cancers.
Jonathan Shepherd, Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Cardiff University, drew up the recommendations.
He said: “Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus and dentists may be the first to notice these conditions.
“So we need to introduce an alcohol screening tool that reliably detects hazardous and harmful drinking alongside effective treatment. The dental team has a responsibility to promote overall health and not just dental health.”
The proposals are published in the Royal College of Surgeon’s Dental Journal and suggest that heavy drinking costs the UK economy £25 billion a year.
Some dentists in England are already offering advice on alcohol and other aspects of health as part of a pilot run by the government.
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