Nutritional Evaluation During the Dental Visit

Dentistry Today


Dental professionals have long noted areas of concern regarding nutritional needs at dental examination appointments. Dental decay and eating disorders are some of the manifestations that nutritional counseling is indicated. How can it be included in an already busy dental appointment? Screening for appropriate diet and referring patients when necessary should become part of total patient care. Poor food choices can increase both dental caries and periodontal disease. Infections in the oral cavity are now being linked to the immune system. Patients who are overweight or underweight with evidence of bulimia can benefit from diet counseling, but first they need to be identified. Being overweight and having diabetes appear to be linked, which can negatively influence periodontal outcomes. Questionnaires can be developed to be used chairside, including questions regarding allergies, snacking habits, avoidance of certain food groups, medications, smoking, dry mouth, and alcoholic consumption. Questionnaires would help initiate discussions where appropriate and could be helpful as a referral tool to patients needing specific dietary counseling. For example, combined with the updated health history indicating pregnancy and cancer/cancer treatment, health risks due to poor diet or lack of appropriate nutrition can be a starting point when counseling appears to be necessary. Patient cooperation is essential for success, and regular follow-up is necessary to help the patient overcome setbacks. Adding nutritional and dietary counseling can be an important way to have a positive impact on patients’ health.

(Source: The Oral Care Report, 2008, Volume 18, Number 1)