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Article spotlights dental role in childhood obesity prevention

August 25, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

The dentist's role in childhood obesity prevention is examined in a publication the ADA helped develop that is available online.

The article provides an overview of a 2016 conference — Healthy Futures: Engaging the Oral Health Community in Childhood Obesity Prevention — the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored and ADA representatives attended. The article lays out the conference's key findings and spells out proposed strategies when it comes to research, dental students' education and training, oral health professionals' continuing education and training, advocacy/policy, reimbursement and other topics.

Dr. Paul Casamassimo, a member of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention and professor emeritus of pediatric dentistry at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, attended the conference. He said dentists, especially those who see families and children, have an opportunity to address obesity.

"We see children regularly from an early age and can reinforce a general message of healthy eating that is tied closely to our promotion of sugar control that is central to oral health," he said. "The faith that the public puts in us gives us a responsibility to go beyond dental caries to promote good general health practices."

Some dentists may be reluctant to address obesity, but counseling about sugar-sweetened beverages can be an easy and appropriate entryway into the discussion, Dr. Casamassimo said, since "most dentists consider that topic in their practice milieu."

Dr. Casamassimo and Dr. Jane Grover, director of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, are coauthors of the conference summary article published online in June in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. To read the conference summary, visit www.mchoralhealth.org and search for "Healthy Futures: Engaging the Oral Health Community in Childhood Obesity Prevention Executive Summary."

The ADA encourages dentists to stay abreast of the latest science-based nutrition recommendations and nutrition related screening, counseling and referral techniques. It also encourages collaborations with dietitians and other nutrition experts to raise interprofessional awareness about the relationship between diet, nutrition and oral health, according to ADA House of Delegates Resolution 60H-2016.

Dentists can refer patients to MouthHealthy.org, ADA's consumer website, for up-to-date and evidenced-based information about nutrition.