Bariatric dentistry is what we would consider to be dental care for patients who are classed as having a BMI (body mass index) over 40. Dental practices who are in a position to offer care for bariatric patients will need to have suitable equipment to safely deliver care. Much has to be considered in order for staff and patients to work together, ensuring no risks of injury or stress. Through expertly designed equipment and additional training, any dental practice with suitable access can be fitted out to offer high-quality dental care for obese patients in need of dental treatment. 

Is there a link between oral health and obesity?

Patients with a high sugar diet are much more likely to develop dental problems down to their choice of diet. Even with regular brushing and flossing, the teeth and gums are subjected to acidic environments which not only encourage bacteria growth but erodes the teeth. 

Carbonated drinks especially create a more acidic environment which gradually strips away the teeth, exposing the more sensitive structures of the tooth. This causes teeth to become much more sensitive without this protective barrier – as well as more vulnerable to the effects of bacteria in the plaque. A low pH also is a preferred environment for bacteria so an increased consumption of fizzy, sugary drinks leads to a much higher chance of cavities. 

Obesity can also alter the number and function of immune cells. This imbalance can impair the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response to infections and other challenges. When recovering following oral surgery, heightened risk of infection can lead to further issues if not treated early. Bariatric patients will need to keep the healing area as bacteria-free as possible.

Bariatric patients may also struggle to find a dental practice that can safely cater to their needs in a comfortable and safe environment. Due to bad experiences, they may feel less encouraged to seek out dental care through developing dental phobia. Not receiving regular dental care will result in dental issues going untreated. If cavities and gum disease are left to develop, they result in poor oral health and eventual tooth loss. Therefore, it’s essential that more dental care providers are equipped to manage the specific needs and requirements for bariatric patients so they receive the same amount of care as any other patient. 


What dental health concerns does diabetes cause?

Obesity comes with a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. The condition can affect dental health. Here’s how:

Slow healing

Diabetes impacts the speed in which the body heals following from surgery. A slower recovery rate in turn increases the risk of infection as wounds are exposed for longer to harmful bacteria. Diabetic patients will therefore be more likely to experience complications during implant surgery and oral surgery, requiring more time to heal and recover. 

Increased risk of gum disease

High blood sugar levels are linked to creating a low pH level in the mouth, a more ideal environment for bacteria to develop. This increases the chance of gum disease to develop as bacteria in the plaque around the gum level lead to an increased immune response, leading to inflammation in the gum tissue. If gum disease is left untreated, it can progress to a more destructive condition – periodontitis. It can also lead to tooth loss. 

Dry mouth

Diabetes can result in xerostomia. This is when the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Your oral health relies on your saliva to wash away food debris on your teeth while also neutralising acids. Saliva is your natural defence against tooth decay and gum disease. 

Increase risk of cavities

If diabetes isn’t managed properly, there can be high glucose levels in the saliva. This increases the chance of developing cavities as it will increase the production of plaque on the tooth surfaces. With all the other contributing factors, diabetic patients will need to be aware of their oral health and visit the dentist regularly to ensure they have the best defences to protect their natural teeth. 


What challenges are in bariatric dental care?

There are many contributing factors that affect the level of dental care that bariatric patients receive. 

Emotional and Social challenges

Many obese patients are reluctant to visit a dentist because they feel stigmatised and fear that the level of care they receive will be impacted. Usually due to a negative experience in the past, bariatric patients are likely to develop anxiety and stress surrounding medical services as a whole. Through providing compassionate care and showing respect, bariatric patients will be more likely to seek out treatment when needed if they feel like their emotional needs will be taken seriously. 

Dental practices can arrange to make transporting a bariatric patient private, providing screens and a private, more secluded entrance to avoid crowded waiting rooms. This preserves their dignity while they feel vulnerable about their condition. 

Mobility and access

Dental practices will need to factor how to move bariatric patients in and out the clinic – as well as the dental chair. Many patients avoid visiting the dental practice because of the difficulties encountered in a clinic that isn’t built with specific disabilities in mind. Medical centres should be accessible for patients with restricted mobility. Having access slopes, wider doorways, lower seating and walking aids all contribute to giving a better experience for patients to safely move about your practice. 

At Design Specific, we provide aids for bariatric patients with reduced mobility, helping them to feel secure and supported while in your care. 

Health and safety for patients and staff

It’s important that all staff are trained in how to handle moving bariatric patients. Having the right equipment will not only help the patient to feel comfortable and safe during their treatment, but will make it easier for staff to help the patient moving in and out of the dental chair. For patients in wheelchairs, we have a reclining platform so there is no need to disturb the patient any more than necessary, ensuring comfortable and accessible care at all times. 

How to adapt your dental clinic for bariatric patients

If your dental chairs aren’t equipped to be a secure seat for bariatric patients, you may wish to invest in a bariatric treatment chair. Our team at Design Specific can arrange a demonstration with our equipment at your clinic or location of your choosing. The best way to trial our Compact Wheelchair Recliners & Bariatric Treatment Chairs is in person. We are at various Dental Shows focussed in Special Care in Dentistry including SCDA (Special Care Dentistry Association) & NNOHA (National Network for Oral Health Access).

You can easily arrange for a test run here. Similarly, you can get in touch with a member of our team by calling +44 (0) 1273 813904.