Last month, the Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) partnered with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) to release a joint position statement on the strong links between a nutritious diet and good oral health to the media and over 1,000 nutrition science experts.
In their release, the DAA CEO Claire Hewat stated that, ‘Nutrition and diet affect the development and progression of oral diseases – the two are naturally linked. If we improve what a person eats, their dental health will also improve.’
DHSV CEO Dr Deborah Cole noted that oral health problems can reduce your ability and motivation to bite, chew and swallow food (and/or drink).
The DAA and DHSV CEOs agreed that a ‘clear lifelong synergy’ should be maintained between diet and oral health.
However the most recent statistical data shows that oral health conditions were the 2nd most expensive disease group to treat, after cardiovascular disease. In 2012-2013, $8.7 billion was spent in Australia on dental treatments.
The DHSV and DAA CEOs believe that their respective industry bodies should work collaboratively to help promote preventative oral health and improve general health outcomes for patients. Ms Hewat pointed out that, ‘There is now increasing evidence that oral health is strongly linked with major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke, as well as adverse pregnancy outcomes’.
Both government departments recognise the need for dietitians to assume a more prominent role – in providing oral health and dietary education to the community.
Dietitians are in a good position to take a leadership role to educate and address oral health issues (linked to diet) to the wider community. This is because dietitians are already employed in community and public health settings. They also work with community groups at high risk of poor oral health and other chronic illnesses.
The DAA plans to incorporate simple oral health strategies into their practice, and have dietitians work in closer collaboration with dental professionals – ‘to support and encourage optimal oral health.’