Nutritional Counseling in the Dental Practice

When do you counsel a dental patient? How can you initiate a conversation regarding nutrition into a regular prophylaxis appointment? It can be as formal as having a patient record a 3, 5, or 7-day food diary and return for dietary counseling. Or an informal approach may involve talking chair side, providing visual aids, brochures, or having a patient record a 24-hour recall. Diet counseling in the dental practice should focus upon reducing oral risks from diet and promoting good nutrition for health. Patients should be referred to a Registered Dietitian if there is an underlying medical condition.

Table 7 will help determine when to counsel in the dental practice and when to refer a patient to a Registered Dietitian.

Table 7. Determine When to Counsel and When to Refer.

When to Counsel When to Refer
  • Chronic dieter
  • Denture patient
  • Early Childhood Caries
  • Oral lesions
  • Periodontal disease
  • Recurrent decay
  • Xerostomia
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorder
  • Food allergies
  • Heart attack
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol

When diet changes are indicated, keep it simple. Make small changes, and let the patient choose one or two goals to practice between dental appointments. As a clinician, be aware of patient’s cultural influence, education, current health status, and any financial restrictions that may inhibit food selection.7