Published on April 17, 2012

Should dentists be screening for alcohol consumption?

The cost of alcohol abuse is sky high, costing the UK around £25bn a year! With an estimated 1 in 5 men and 1 in 7 women reported to be regular binge drinkers, excessive alcohol consumption has become a major problem for us Brits.

So where do dentists come into this I hear you ask? Well, they could potentially be very important in the prevention of alcohol-related diseases, namely, cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus. Dentists’ screening and questioning their patients’ at routine check-ups could mean such conditions are identified early and prevented from causing long-term damage.

According to Prof Shepherd, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Cardiff University, alcohol screening is simply an extension to the dentists’ primary duties, following on from the usual advice given to patients’ about diet and smoking. “The real issue here is not so much dental disease, important though that is, but the fact that the dental team and dentists have a duty of care, a wider duty of care, for maintaining overall health,” he said.

The real question is, although this extension could have huge benefits for the nation’s oral health and health budgets, will dentists’ have enough time and resources to complete alcohol screenings? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this debate, please comment below or tweet us @stockdalemartin.

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