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Identifying Patients Experiencing Food Insecurity: Insights from Dental Professionals

A recent pilot study conducted by members of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) sheds light on the critical link between food insecurity and oral health. The study, which surveyed dental professionals, aimed to explore perceptions and practices concerning families experiencing food insecurity and their oral health needs.

Key Findings:

  • Recognition of the Link: The study revealed that a significant number of dental professionals recognize the correlation between poor oral health and food insecurity. Specifically, 80.3% of respondents acknowledged this connection.
  • Confidence in Identifying Patients: While dental practitioners reported confidence in providing oral health counseling, a smaller proportion felt confident in identifying individuals experiencing food insecurity. Only 36.8% of respondents felt confident in identifying such patients, and even fewer (32.9%) were comfortable discussing the issue further.
  • Perceived Barriers: Lack of time, confidence, and knowledge were identified as major barriers when discussing food insecurity with families. Other obstacles included difficulties in patient identification and counseling skills.
  • Professional Responsibility: While the majority of respondents agreed that dental teams have a role in advising patients experiencing food insecurity, a minority felt otherwise, believing it was not within their professional domain.
  • Proposed Intervention Strategies: Suggestions for supporting patients experiencing food insecurity included screening, provision of resources, and signposting to community services. Additionally, respondents emphasized the need for additional training, resources in waiting rooms, and greater awareness through media and government coverage.
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Implications:

  • Enhanced Training: There is a clear need for additional training to equip dental professionals with the skills and confidence to identify and support patients experiencing food insecurity. Training should focus on communication strategies, counseling skills, and awareness of community resources.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Collaboration with other healthcare professionals and community organizations is essential in addressing the multifaceted needs of patients experiencing food insecurity. Dental teams should work closely with social services, food banks, and public health agencies to provide comprehensive support.
  • Policy Advocacy: Dental professionals can play a crucial role in advocating for policy changes that address the root causes of food insecurity. This may involve supporting initiatives to improve access to affordable, nutritious food and advocating for income support programs for vulnerable populations.
In conclusion, the study highlights the urgent need for dental professionals to enhance their understanding of food insecurity and its impact on oral health. By adopting a patient-centered approach, collaborating with other stakeholders, and advocating for policy change, dental teams can better support the oral health needs of individuals and families experiencing food insecurity.
Study:
Albadri, S., Allen, L. & Ajeigbe, T. Food insecurity and the dental team: a pilot study to explore opinions. BDJ Open 10, 24 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41405-024-00205-8

Author

Dr Rockson BDS, PgDM, DBM (Germany) & Awarded Content Marketeer of the year 2020 & Love telling story for brands.

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