NYMC Faculty Publications


Addressing Obesity in the Dental Setting: What Can Be Learned from Oral Health Care Professionals' Efforts to Screen for Medical Conditions

Document Type


Publication Date

June 2017


Epidemiology and Community Health


PURPOSE: This scoping review focused on what can be learned from oral health professionals' (OHCPs) efforts to provide screenings for medical conditions in the dental setting that could guide strategies for addressing childhood obesity. METHODS: PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, Grey Literature, and CINAHL were searched (limitation English language). Search terms covered OHCPs and various oral systemic conditions of interest (details provided in the paper. Nineteen unduplicated, relevant articles were categorized based on relationship to question. RESULTS: Screening for diabetes and heart disease risk in the dental setting has been shown to be effective and patients and providers are willing to participate, although not yet routinely implemented. Screening/counseling for tobacco-cessation has been shown to be effective, but few (<10 percent) OHCPs provided this activity or received tobacco cessation training. For obesity screening/counseling, the majority of dentists (82 percent) reported they would be more willing to offer this service if obesity were directly related to oral disease. The one healthy weight intervention pilot study was well received by caregivers/patients and resulted in improved food choices. Successful implementation included a dedicated staff member, the dental hygienist. Lack of adequate training was a commonly reported barrier for all of these conditions; in addition, for obesity screening/counseling fear of appearing judgmental, and fear of patient rejection were also commonly reported. CONCLUSIONS: Systematic studies are needed building on existing literature and exploring best implementation practices. Enhanced training is needed on relationship of oral health and systemic health and OHCPs' role.