Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist April 2016 Contents Australian Pharmacist April 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Oral healthcare a new frontier
for Australian pharmacists
BY BRAD WATTS
More than 90% of pharmacists in Australia believe they have a leading
role to provide oral healthcare advice in the community, according to
an Australian-first study published in International Journal of Pharmacy
A key finding of the landmark study,
led by Dr Meng-Wong Taing of the
University of Queensland’s School of
Pharmacy, highlighted that Australian
pharmacists were well-placed to address
important risk factors for oral health
conditions including toothache and
providing advice on smoking-cessation.
The study’s co-author and PSA National
Board member Dr Chris Freeman said
the study once again highlighted that
the role of pharmacists’ was continually
expanding in Australia, focusing on
effective ways to improve public health
in local communities.
‘A key area where the pharmacy
profession is under-recognised and
underutilised is its contribution to oral
healthcare. This role is important, given
pharmacists are in frequent contact with
patients susceptible to a variety of oral
health conditions,’ Dr Freeman said.
‘ This ground-breaking, new study
emphasises that oral health is a major
problem in our community and that
pharmacists can play a key role in a
providing health solutions as part of
their everyday practices.
‘ The role of the pharmacist in oral
health is also important for people from
disadvantaged populations who lack
ready-access to dentists due to either
financial restraints or long waiting queues
in the nation’s public health system.'
The study of more than 140 pharmacists
highlighted that Australia compared
with other countries for pharmacists
providing oral healthcare. In the
UK, more than 75% of pharmacists
received oral healthcare inquiries
regularly, while oral heath advice by
pharmacists was even more prevalent in
Dr Freeman said more than 90% of
pharmacists’ surveyed felt confident of
handling oral health-related enquiries,
Analgesic medication to relieve oral-
related pain (95.8%)
Mouth ulcers (95.1%)
Oral thrush (94.4%),
Smoking cessation (91.7%).
‘Pharmacists are highly regarded as
medications experts, and receive
extensive training regarding quality use
of medicines,’ Dr Freeman said.
Importantly, the study also highlighted
an opportunity for more training in this
area for pharmacist. Around 97% of
respondents called for further education
on oral care that would benefit their
practice. The PSA has already aligned
with dental industry bodies to ensure
pharmacists and the dental sector
work collaboratively to support better
oral health in the community and
consequently better general health.
Associate Professor Pauline Ford from
the University of Queensland’s School of
Dentistry said the study highlighted the
important opportunity for pharmacists
to provide oral health advice.
‘ There are a whole range of oral
conditions regarding the mouth and
teeth where patients can talk to their
pharmacist as their first port of call –
and if their conditions require treatment,
they can be triaged to dentists,’ said
Associate Professor Ford, who was a
co-author of the study.
She said strengthening relationships
between pharmacists and dentists made
a lot of sense, especially for the benefit of
‘It’s important for pharmacists to know local
dentists and where to refer people – so
to have strong professional relationships
between these health disciplines would be
really useful,’ she said.
Associate Professor Ford said on the
flipside, dentists could also improve their
knowledge about pharmacy and make
connections with local pharmacists and
provide information to pharmacy staff
about oral health.
‘Inter-professional relationships are really
a growing area – it’s recognised that we
need to understand more about what
other professionals are doing to support an
individual’s health. If the local healthcare
team is not aware of the roles of others in
the community, it becomes more difficult
to manage patients,’ she said.
As a way of improving oral health through
pharmacy Associate Professor Ford said
undergraduate education of pharmacists
could be addressed.
‘ There’s also an opportunity to provide
CPD materials so that people can keep
up with latest advice on oral health,
especially as oral health products and
medicines are always changing and
improving,’ she said.
Other areas highlighted in the research
included that pharmacists were
under-prepared for oral emergencies.
‘In this latest study, only about one in
10 pharmacists had oral health emergency
referral procedures in place. It is important
for pharmacists to establish meaningful
collaborations with their local dental
practices to improve continuity of care,’ Dr
‘Collaborating with dental industry
leaders will help to support better oral
health for the community.
The oral health study is online at: http://onlinelibrary.
Brad Watts is the Executive director of
communications for PSA.
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