Obesity, classified as a chronic disease by the World Health Organisation, is a worldwide public health problem. It is a major risk factor for the development of numerous comorbidities, reduced mobility and socioeconomic disadvantage. These adverse associations with obesity often complicate dental management and may present significant barriers to access. As such, patients with more severe obesity may be referred for specialist dental management in Special Needs Dentistry departments.
Studies report poor oral health in people with obesity. Current evidence has highlighted associations between obesity and oral disease, specifically dental caries, periodontitis and xerostomia. Additionally, individuals with obesity present more frequently with tooth loss and periodontal disease. It is critical to study dental service utilisation in individuals attending a tertiary obesity service, as they are high-risk for both poor oral health that may complicate general health and for experiencing barriers to access. This group, who often weigh more than 140kg, are unable to be examined or treated in conventional dental chairs due to exceeding the working weight limits of these chairs. Such patients can only be seen where specialised dental chairs are available that can accommodate a safe working load of up to 500kg. Hence, it is essential that they have ready access to multidisciplinary care, including oral healthcare.
Data is lacking for dental utilisation in the population who attend a tertiary obesity service, presumed to have more severe obesity and/or obesity associated with complications. Barriers to dental care in this group need to be better understood so that they can be addressed in the future. Here we present the outcome of focus groups conducted at the Nepean Family Metabolic Health Service, which explored the perceptions and experiences of patients with obesity and aimed to highlight any barriers to optimal dental care provision. Data was qualitatively analysed for emerging themes.