Dentists are being urged to ask patients about their alcohol consumption, in an article in the Royal College of Surgeons' Dental Journal. Professor Jonathan Shepherd, the main author of the paper, states that asking about alcohol consumption should be routine, and that there is a "need to introduce a screening tool" to support this process.
Alcohol is linked to problems with oral health, including oral cancers, which have doubled in males aged 40-49 years over the past 20 years. Alcohol can also cause dental erosion in young people, increased tooth decay due to the sugars and acids in alcoholic drinks, poor oral hygiene and slower recovery from dental surgery.
Professor Shepherd is an Oral Maxillofacial surgeon who has often been at the spearhead of attempts to tackle alcohol harms. He insists that dental surgeries can offer a "major contribution to Government health priorities" and that currently dentists are missing an "untapped opportunity" to ask and advise about alcohol and oral health. See BBC report.
Earlier this year Ministers backed calls for health proffessionals to 'make every contact count' by delivering lifestyle interventions. See here for a report 'Brief interventions: achieving widespread delivery? which explores opportunities and threats for mainstreaming alcohol interventions.