In a report published in the April edition of the Royal College of Surgeon's Dental Journal, health experts warn that excessive alcohol consumption causes mouth cancer and dental disease. According to the experts, in order to tackle this as fast as possible, screening and treatment for alcohol abuse is critical.
The paper is entitled "Alcohol misuse: screening and treatment in primary dental care."
According to the paper, individuals do not visit their GP unless they are ill, whereas the majority of people visit their dentist for a routine check-up, as a result dentists have the chance to identify alcohol abuse.
Given that questioning patients with regard to their alcohol consumption is a routine component of understanding their overall health, making standard questions about alcohol consumption more explicit under the new policy proposals could provide a new opportunity to help people in their fight against drinking problems, which has so far been left untouched.
Lead author of the paper, Jonathan Shepherd, Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, explained:
"Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus and dentists may be the first to notice these conditions. So we need to introduce an alcohol screening tool that reliably detects hazardous and harmful drinking alongside effective treatment."
According to the paper, approximately 1 in 5 men in the UK and 1 in 7 women often drink excessive amounts of alcohol - costing the UK economy around £25 billion every year. Encouraging moderation in alcohol consumption in primary dental settings could help to lower the social, economic and health burdens linked to excessive alcohol consumption.
The authors state that identifying and tackling alcohol abuse at the dentist would significantly contribute towards the Government's health priorities.
"The dental team has a responsibility to promote overall health and not just dental health. Dentists and the Government must work together to develop and deliver screening and treatment by intervening early."