Today is World Health Day. Every year as part of the campaign, its organisers the World Health Organisation, select a different priority area of global public health concern as the theme for the awareness day.

For 2016 the theme is diabetes – one of the most widespread non-communicable diseases in the world – and one which is now diagnosed in more than four million people across the United Kingdom.

Under the strapline ‘Beat Diabetes’ the day will aim to increase awareness about the rise in diabetes, and its staggering burden and consequences upon health governance and infrastructure. The first WHO Global Report on diabetes will also be launched, and will advocate for stronger health systems to ensure improved surveillance, enhanced prevention and more effective management of diabetes.

These targets are not only most admirable; they are critical too and could see a significant role to play for dental hygienists and those dually qualified in dental hygiene and therapy, not to mention the entirety of dental health professionals.


Diabetes and poor oral health are entwined. A body of peer reviewed evidence and research over the last few decades has revealed that one of these is far more likely to occur if the other is present. Likewise, studies have shown that diabetes could be treated or at least mitigated with successful treatment of oral diseases such as periodontitis.

But it’s not only a patient’s oral and general health which can improve with the help of a dental professional, there are also tremendous economic outcomes to be considered.

The report ‘Impact of Periodontal Therapy on General Health’ by Jeffcoat et al in 2014 (http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(14)00153-6/abstract) was a real eye opener in terms of a potential source of significant medical cost savings.

The report focused on the effects of periodontal therapy on medical costs and hospitalisations among people with diagnosed type-2 diabetes, as well as other systemic conditions. It found those patients with diabetes who underwent periodontal treatment decreased their annual medical costs by more than 40%. It also revealed hospital admissions in the same group decreased by 29%.

The role of dental professionals is to provide effective preventative treatments. If patients utilise these services through measures such as regular appointments and check-ups, they can avoid developing problems like periodontal disease and the cost and further medical issues which are related to it.

There are substantial benefits to some of the most ‘at risk’ patient groups such as the elderly and children who care most likely to develop problems. Effective dental maintenance benefits include less invasive and traumatic treatments to these groups which also have a larger cost associated with them too.


The Jeffcoat report demonstrates that preventative treatment should be commonplace and supports what we as clinicians have had anecdotal evidence of for years. Looking after our oral health properly by visiting a dental hygienist regularly can help stabilise serious systemic health conditions.

Here are just a few ideas of how you can support World Health Day and the ‘Beat Diabetes’ message, not just on April 7 but as an on-going activity:

  • Discuss specific diabetes-related interventions with patients, such as:
  • Healthy eating.
  • Keeping physically active.
  • Taking prescribed medications.
  • Recognising hidden sugars.
  • Support WHO’s awareness-raising efforts.
  • Visit their website and download their free posters to display for patients.
  • Tweet about diabetes and oral health using #diabetes.

Learn more about today’s World Health Day by visiting its campaign page: http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2016/en/



Editors Notes




01788 575050


The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is a nationally recognised body that represents over 4,000 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists across the UK and beyond.

BSDHT maintain an on-going dialogue with the General Dental Council (GDC), the Departments of Health and all of the main groups representing dental care professionals, and attends meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, bringing dental hygiene and therapy to the attention of government ministers and MP’s.

Visit www.bsdht.org.uk for more information.

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