How to support patients have a happier, leaner new year

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  Posted by: The Probe      2nd December 2021

You might be seeing patients telling you they want to get leaner in 2022. Even just a few extra pounds can make a big difference, not just to someone’s self-esteem, but to their health too.

Plenty of people did make positive lifestyle changes during the pandemic but for others the instruction to stay home, along with more snacking, comfort eating and increased alcohol consumption had a negative impact on their body weight. Last summer, a survey of 5,000 adults found that 40% reported an average weight gain of just over 3kg (around half a stone) since March 2020.[i]

Beyond BMI

If a patient believes they are overweight, encourage them to make an appointment with their GP, who will make a full assessment and possibly refer them to other services. In other cases, your patient might tell you they’ve only gained a bit, but feel sluggish and low and that their clothes don’t fit. Good relationships are important here, as they allow you to find positive solutions tailored to each patient.

An excellent springboard topic for oral health consultations is what “healthy” weight means. Your patient might reference the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculators that can be found online and which, using their weight, height and age will categorise someone as either underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or extremely obese. Only using BMI as a guide is not recommended because 1) they typically don’t “differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass” and 2) they do not reflect “regional body fat distribution” which is important.[ii]Although maintaining a healthy weight lowers the risk of a host of serious diseases, including cancer and type-2 diabetes, abdominal/central obesity is more strongly associated with chronic disease risk than overall obesity.[iii],[iv]

How are those jeans?!

On the topic of diabetes, the headlines about how “if you can’t fit into the jeans you wore when you were 21, you’re at risk of type-2 diabetes”, may have caused your patients some alarm![v] For context, they were based on data presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes’ annual conference last September. Although preliminary, the results of a new study had found that people with type-2 diabetes, and of normal weight, could “achieve remission” by losing just 10-15% of their body weight. This would appear to demonstrate that “diabetes is not caused by obesity, but by being too heavy for your own body… if you can’t get into the same size trousers now (than you wore at 21), you are carrying too much fat, even if you aren’t overweight.” The early results were cautiously welcomed by Diabetes UK; we look forward to seeing them in full next year.

Link between weight gain and oral health

The link between diabetes and periodontal disease is well known and an increase in adipose tissues will increase the body’s inflammatory response further. According to a study from University College London Hospitals, it is estimated that 50-70% of the British population already have some form of gum disease, so if we see waistlines and cases of diabetes increase, will we see these figures increase also?

Oral health practitioners are ready and willing and able to give advice. Why not suggest a no or low-sugar January? This will reduce calorie intake with the added benefit of protecting your patients against caries. Cutting out chocolate, sweets, and other high-sugar foods will benefit the whole family and, if you help your patients find tasty swaps, these habits might end up sticking.    

Making these dietary suggestions will come easily especially alongside oral hygiene instructions. Because having a beautifully clean and healthy mouth will make your patients feel great, boosting their wellbeing while they are making improvements to their health. Optimised daily routines must be discussed at every preventive-maintenance consultation, with interdental cleaning encouraged to elevate toothbrushing. Show your patients how to clean between comfortably and effectively with a quality, easy-to-handle tool, such as the TANDEX WOODI interdental brush which comes in a range of a sizes.

You may have patients on weight-loss programmes – or who you can motivate to join one – and others who have seen a few pounds drifting on, and want to address the issue now. Protecting themselves against future ill-health is an excellent carrot, but it’s also about feeling good about themselves. With good conversations, we can offer practical tips and support for weight loss, so they can look forward to a happier new year.

Author: Kimberley Lloyd- Rees on behalf of Tandex

Kimberley graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2010, where she now works as a clinical tutor in Dental Hygiene and Therapy as well as working in practice. She has spent her career working across a variety of specialist private and mixed dental practices, for the MOD and volunteering her time to a dental charity in Nepal

 

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[i] Lockdown weight gain averaging half a stone – survey. BBC, 26 July 2021. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57968651(accessed October 2021).

[ii] Jayedi A, Soltani S, Zargar M S, Khan T A, Shab-Bidar S. Central fatness and risk of all cause mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of 72 prospective cohort studies. BMJ 2020; 370:m3324 doi:10.1136/bmj.m3324

[iii] Does obesity cause cancer? Cancer Research UK. Link: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/obesity-weight-and-cancer/does-obesity-cause-cancer (accessed October 2021).

[iv] BMJ 2020; 370:m3324 doi:10.1136/bmj.m3324

[v] People who ‘can’t fit into jeans they wore aged 21’ risk developing diabetes. Guardian, 27 September 2021. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/sep/27/people-who-cant-fit-into-jeans-they-wore-aged-21-risk-developing-diabetes(accessed October 2021).

 


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