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In this series of articles, the EFP will show how its partners see the need for changing behaviours in dental prevention and healthcare and what they themselves are doing about it.
In this interview we talk to Dr Vanessa Blanc, who is Head of the translational research and development department at Dentaid, based in Barcelona, Spain.
“2000 years after Christ, we have visited the moon, and yet we do not have public oral health!” Dr Vanessa Blanc is fast onto her theme about how best to change behaviour. The World Health Organisation seems to agree with her. A report in November 2022 highlighted that oral health neglect affects about half the world’s population.
One thing that might persuade governments to do more is to point out that prevention can save them literally billions of Euros by reducing the cost of medical care for a whole host of other ailments. Does Blanc agree?
“For sure” she declares “I completely agree… the companies should be doing that. It is cheaper to invest in prevention than in treatment.”
“We should lobby at a governmental level because they have to invest in oral health, and in prevention of all pathologies.” She goes on: “We have fragmented medical vision, we talk about oral health, cardiovascular health, intestinal or metabolic health, but not joining.”
This means seeing the mouth as part of the holistic whole. What goes on in the mouth can affect the heart for example, and possibly vice versa. Yet doctors don’t understand oral health, usually sending a patient to a dentist.
“This is a systemic problem” she says: “it makes it impossible to see how all the factors intervene. We can’t see the global photo. We have to work in a different way.”
Education is key to prevention and Blanc thinks companies like Dentaid have a responsibility to encourage behaviour changes.“I think companies that create products for oral health, have a lot of knowledge, because we do basic research.”
Last year, Aula DENTAID organized 25 courses, taught by 41 speakers from 6 different countries, with the direct participation of almost 6,000 people. Dr Blanc adds: “Early school age is an ideal time to acquire knowledge and a healthy habit. It is easy to create a habit when you are young.”
Her view is that if you can have school subjects such as Spanish, history or maths, why can’t you have a subject called health, including oral health.
“Education is vital for all ages though, and requires a global, holistic, approach. It needs to involve private companies (such as Dentaid) but also universities, academic societies, the ministry of health etc. We have to work together,” thinks Blanc.
This would help educate the public about how to care for their teeth or implants. “Let’s explain to that patient that we have placed the entire new mouth, new teeth, with several implants, that he is wearing a tooth substitute that can fail in there…..she has to take care, using more rinses, specialised toothbrushes for implants etc.”
Encouragingly the Spanish society of periodontology is now suggesting to cardiologists that if a patient has cardiovascular disease, that they visit their dentist. “Wow this is a big step” enthuses Vanessa Blanc. It certainly is a start.
Blanc believes that there should be more standardisation across oral healthcare. “I think we should be aligned and we are not aligned. Every company develops gadgets or toothbrushes thinking they think are going to work better for the oral cavity. Sometimes we cannot even interprete the ISO (International standard) in the same way.”
Whilst dental professionals are the experts, Vanessa Blanc believes politicians must do more. Governments need to put their money where your mouth is!