Pharmacists to dispense oral health advice

on 1st July 2019

Pharmacies across the north east of England are to dispense oral health advice following the success of a pilot scheme.

Poor oral health is a significant public health concern, costing the NHS in England £3.4bn annually, with tooth decay the most common reason for hospital admissions among children aged five to nine.

But a project between the University of Sunderland and the Public Health Team at Durham County Council has harnessed the accessibility of community pharmacies, frequently visited by patients, by offering a venue to deliver vital oral health advice and information.

Five pharmacies in deprived areas of County Durham took part in the pilot in 2016 and introduced a five-minute oral health intervention to patients as they waited for prescriptions or had just popped in for advice and medications.

The right advice

More than 1,000 patients took part in the intervention, which included advising patients on how to brush their teeth properly, checking they were using the right products and providing key information on how to look after teeth and gums.

The results found that 72% of participants reported that their knowledge of oral health was much better and 66% said that they would definitely make changes to their oral health habits. Meanwhile, 64% definitely thought a pharmacy was the right place to receive oral health advice.

Andrew Sturrock, principal lecturer at the University of Sunderland, explained: ‘We already know there are lots of people who don’t have a dentist, have phobias about dental treatment or avoid regular check-ups, especially in deprived areas.

‘The pharmacy is certainly not taking over the dentists’ role – this is just about giving some really basic healthcare advice and signposting patients in the right direction.

‘It’s also about trying to prevent people from needing dental treatment later on, potentially saving millions on NHS treatment. We know that poor oral health can have a big impact on patients and improving oral health can even have positive benefits in other systemic health conditions, such as diabetes.’

The evaluation was performed using a patient evaluation questionnaire and interviews with pharmacy staff. The research has been published in the British Dental Journal.

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