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Dr Jörg Eberhard will be holding a lecture on 20 March from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. at the Australian Dental Industry Association’s office in Alexandria in New South Wales. Registration is open at www.wohd.com.au/register.html. (Photograph: WOHD/private)
0 Comments Mar 14, 2017 | News Asia Pacific

Interview: “A preventative health care system is also a cost-efficient system”

Post a comment by Kristin Hübner, DTI

On the occasion of this year’s World Oral Health Day (WOHD) on 20 March, Prof. Jörg Eberhard from the University of Sydney will be presenting the Australian WOHD lecture, titled “#PuttingTheMouthIntoHealth—Time for a paradigm change in dentistry!”. Dental Tribune Online had the opportunity to speak with Eberhard, who was appointed the university’s first Chair of Lifespan Oral Health in 2015, about the role of preventative care in research and clinical practice and the general need for a more holistic view on medical conditions and oral health.

Dental Tribune Online: Can you explain what is meant by the title of your lecture, “Putting the mouth into health”?
Prof. Jörg Eberhard: Research over the last several decades has shown that oral disease is linked to general health and other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis. The available evidence demonstrating this association is based on epidemiological studies, clinical intervention trials and knowledge of sound biological mechanisms. Irrespective of this body of knowledge, a holistic view on medical conditions that includes oral health has not been established in clinical medical practice. “Putting the mouth into health” stands for the strategic vision of overcoming this shortcoming and is aimed at improving the community’s health.

Do you think there is enough awareness among the public about the relationship between oral health, overall well-being and quality of life?
There is very limited awareness of the link between oral and general disease among the public; however, many health care professionals too are not aware of the association between oral and general health, even though it may significantly affect the well-being of patients. Oral health literacy education of the community and health care professionals is a major challenge for the dental profession. Furthermore, teaching of the association between oral and general health to medical students is necessary to establish a holistic view of health in the future.

What is the dental community’s role and that of national health care policies in this matter?
The dental community must realise that dentistry is not limited to caries and infected root surfaces; the work of the dental community should be aimed at easing a significant global disease burden and improving the health of the community. Policies must recognise oral health as an integral part of general health and health services, inseparable if the population’s health is to be maintained or improved.

Do you think that there should be an increased interdisciplinary exchange between dentistry and medicine?
The exchange between dentistry, medicine and other health professions is fundamental to make substantial contributions to medical research and clinical health care in the future. A holistic view on health and disease is obviously highly relevant for clinical decision-making, since medical research has repeatedly demonstrated the interdependence of the various organ systems owing to similar generalised mechanisms.

With the rising burden of diseases such as periodontitis and diabetes on one hand and increasing awareness of prevention on the other, where does dentistry stand today?
Since the introduction of fluoridation, the dental research community and the dental profession have neglected preventative pathways for decades, and research and clinical activities have focused on restorative treatments. This trend is epitomised by the use of artificial materials like dental implants to restore natural teeth, which have to be extracted because of the lack of adequate preventative treatment. This development is advanced by policies that reward restorative treatments and do not support preventative dental treatments.

What role does the increasing use of highly advanced and complex technology in dentistry play in achieving the goal of retaining the natural dentition for as long as possible?
Highly advanced and complex technologies should be limited to those patients who have suffered trauma or who have severe disease or genetic deteriorations. Health care systems are not able to provide these technologies to the broader community and therefore these cost-intensive technologies are limited to the privileged. A preventative health care system is also a cost-efficient health care system, relieving individuals and the public from suffering and high costs.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Editorial note: This is an abridged version of an interview published in Dental Tribune Asia Pacific Edition, Vol. 15, No. 3.

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