Compromised nutritional intake due to eating disorder related behaviors, such as binge eating and purging, can lead to multi-system medical complications, including an irreversible impact on oral health. However, dental anxiety, fear or embarrassment may hinder individuals with an eating disorder from seeking assistance for their oral health concerns. As key health professionals in eating disorder treatment, dietitians are well positioned to provide basic dental screening, however, their capacity to perform this role in practice has not been established. The aim of this review was to identify current evidence on the role of dietitians in promoting oral health among individuals with eating disorders.
A comprehensive search of eight electronic databases and the grey literature was conducted to address the following three focus areas: 1) guidelines and recommendations on the role of dietitians in oral health 2) knowledge, attitudes and practices of dietitians regarding oral health promotion and; 3) current models of oral health care and resources for dietitians.
Twelve articles were included. The review indicated that current national and international position statements encourage dietitians to conduct basic oral health screening and promote oral health in high risk populations, such as those with an eating disorder. However, no evidence was found to indicate dietitians performed oral health screening or education in populations with an eating disorder. In other population settings, dietitians were found to play a role in oral health promotion, however, were noted to have mixed knowledge on oral health risk factors, prevention and treatment and generally were not providing referrals. Some oral health promotion resources existed for dietitians working in pediatric, HIV and geriatric clinical areas however no resources were identified for dietitians working in eating disorder settings.
Despite current evidence showing that dietitians can play a role in oral health care, no models of care exist where dietitians promote oral health among individuals with an eating disorder. There are also no training resources and screening tools for dietitians in this area. Further research is required to develop this model of care and assess its feasibility and acceptability.