Research to examine role dentists can play in tackling obesity crisis

A new study being led by Loughborough University will look at the role dentists can play in reducing obesity in the UK.

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.

The study is being led by Amanda Daley, a Professor of Behavioural Medicine based in the University’s Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour (CLiMB).

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 amongst 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. Any dentists interested in being part of the project should contact the CLiMB team at climb@babyfeedingshop.com.

Professor Daley has published an opinion piece on the role dentists have to play in tackling obesity with the British Dental Journal. Her article - Time to get our teeth into reducing obesity: should dentists screen and deliver interventions to reduce obesity in the population?can be viewed here.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 22/19

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

About the NIHR

The mission of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

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