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5 Things to Consider When Discussing Childhood Obesity in the Dental Office

Broaching the subject of childhood obesity with a patient can be difficult as it is a sensitive topic. Because oral health professionals are in a unique position to provide patients with screening and education on this issue, having a firm grasp on ways to address this topic in the dental setting is essential.

Broaching the subject of childhood obesity with a patient can be difficult as it is a sensitive topic. Because oral health professionals are in a unique position to provide patients with screening and education on this issue, having a firm grasp on ways to address this topic in the dental setting is essential. Here are 5 things to consider when discussing childhood obesity in the dental office.

1. SCREENING

Dental hygienists can help identify patients at risk of developing childhood obesity during screenings. Body mass index screenings, effective communication with patients on overall health and diet, motivational interviewing, caries risk assessment, and risk assessment for sleep apnea are helpful strategies. Because children who are overweight are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, the dental setting may be an ideal environment to perform a blood glucose screening.

2. ORAL HEALTH

Studies indicate a correlation between childhood obesity and dental caries, and consumption of sugar-containing beverages. For this reason, providing patients with nutritional counseling on making healthy choices to reduce caries risk is beneficial.

3. CAUSES

Several risk factors are associated with obesity in children, including genetic predisposition, food preferences, and socioeconomic status. Childhood obesity is also related to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and bullying.

4. GUIDANCE

Childhood obesity is multifactorial, which requires changes be made in various areas of the patient’s life. Clinicians should be prepared to offer referrals to physicians, nutritionists, and other health professionals, as well as provide counseling on dietary guidelines for healthy eating. Educating patients on lifestyle changes and the importance of limiting sugary beverages will help to reinforce a message of healthy eating. And reminding parents that increasing physical activity, portion control, and changing eating habits are ways to manage childhood obesity.

5. LIFESTYLE

Because obesity is associated with periodontal diseases, sleep apnea, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, informing parents that practicing a healthy lifestyle from a young age is critical to combating this health problem.

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