Dentists' attitudes about their role in addressing obesity in patients: a national survey

Alice E Curran, Daniel J Caplan, Jessica Y Lee, Lauren Paynter, Ziya Gizlice, Catherine Champagne, Alice S Ammerman, Robert Agans
Journal of the American Dental Association 2010, 141 (11): 1307-16

BACKGROUND: Reducing the incidence of obesity requires coordination among primary health care providers. Because of their frequent contact with patients, dentists are positioned to recognize patients at risk of developing obesity. The authors conducted a study to assess dentists' interest in and barriers to providing obesity counseling to patients.

METHODS: The authors surveyed a random sample of 8,000 American Dental Association members by mail, stratified according to census region (West, Midwest, South, Northeast) and dentist type (general, pediatric). The authors weighted respondents' data to account for the unequal probability of selection and nonresponse rates among regions and dentist types.

RESULTS: In all, 2,965 dentists responded. Overall, 4.8 percent of respondents offered a form of counseling services and 50.5 percent reported that they were interested in offering obesity-related services. More than one-half of the respondents cited fears of offending patients (53.8 percent) and appearing judgmental (52 percent) as major barriers, followed by a paucity of trained personnel (46.3 percent) and patients' rejection of weight-loss advice (45.7 percent). Eighty-two percent of respondents agreed that dentists would be more willing to intervene if obesity were linked definitively to oral disease.

CONCLUSIONS: Given continued increases in obesity in the United States and the willingness of dentists to assist in preventive and interventional efforts, experts in obesity intervention, in conjunction with dental educators, should develop models of intervention within the scope of dental practice.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Educating dentists about obesity and counseling may reduce barriers for those interested in addressing obesity in their practices.


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