Despite a dental practice being the best place to deal with problems in the mouth, a growing number of people are now going to hospitals and general practices with pain and injuries from their oral health.

According to the British Dental Association, around 600,000 people in the UK every year (that’s 11,000 a week) are taking dental problems to the GP rather than the dentist while government statistics show more than 33,000 children were referred to oral surgery clinics over the past 12 months to have decayed teeth extracted.

General health professionals are not trained nor equipped to deal with these problems, especially those requiring more invasive treatment. While they can prescribe you medication and pain relief in the short term, they are not able to provide you with a long-term solution for good dental health.

If you are experiencing dental pain, book an appointment with your dentist. Likewise, if you have an accident that has affected your mouth or teeth, contact your local dental practice for an emergency appointment.

General health and oral health

The mouth is the window to the body and there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that infections and diseases in the mouth can be linked with problems in other parts of the body.

Over your lifetime you might visit your GP with a variety of conditions, and some of these can either be as a result of, or lead to, developing poor oral health. If they believe you might be at greater risk of poor oral health, or that it has had an effect on your overall wellbeing, they might encourage you to take pro-active measures maintain good oral hygiene.

If you suffer from dental diseases, in particular severe gum disease (periodontal disease), you will be at higher risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes. You can learn in more detail here about the links between oral health and general wellbeing.

Patients visiting their doctor or admitted to hospital could take steps to improve or learn about their oral health in a few simple ways...

Oral health information

Chances are that the hospital or surgery you are visiting will provide a variety of information about a number of different areas of health.

Whether it is a written leaflet, a poster display, or a screen showing videos and presentations.

This information is really important and can help make you more aware of wider health concerns and tell you about signs and symptoms for a variety of conditions and diseases.

Please take the time to look at hospital display boards and waiting room displays. You could even find information about the value of good oral health, along with advice on how to develop and maintain good dental hygiene.

If you read something in the hospital that makes you feel that you are more at risk of dental disease, you may find it appropriate to speak about this during the appointment itself. The doctor may be able to provide you with physical information e.g. leaflets. 

Vending machines and cafeterias

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for good oral health, as is a reduction in the amount and frequency of sugar being consumed.

A number of studies have suggested that a patient’s oral health declines while in hospital and alongside a regular oral health routine, access to sugary foods and drinks plays a significant role in that.

If you are a hospital patient, or visiting somebody in hospital, try adopting the following guidelines:

  • From vending machines, only choose sugar-free drinks like milk and water.
  • Try not to pick confectionery or other high-in-sugar items.
  • Pick fresh food only like fruit, nuts and raw vegetables.
  • When buying a tea or coffee, do not add sugar.
  • In cafeterias, look for low in added sugar options and avoid processed foods.

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