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Use of AUDIT-C alcohol screening tool in NHS general dental practices in North London


Background The numerous health risks of excessive alcohol consumption are well documented. Individuals at risk of harm from alcohol consumption can be identified through alcohol screening tools; however, there is limited research regarding their use in general dental practices.

Methods Data were collected as part of a feasibility trial evaluating delivery of brief alcohol advice in general dental practices in North London. Patient demographics and health-related behaviours were collected, and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) tool was used to assess alcohol consumption patterns.

Results The analytical sample comprised 552 dental patients, of whom approximately half (46%) were drinking alcohol at hazardous levels. Males, younger adults, those who consumed red meat weekly and smokers all had significantly increased risks of excessive alcohol consumption. Smokers were more likely to consume excessive levels of alcohol irrespective of smoking frequency. Notable sex differences in alcohol consumption were identified, with males being more likely to consume alcohol frequently and in larger quantities than females.

Conclusion The AUDIT-C tool can be used in general dental practice to screen for harmful levels of alcohol consumption. Clear associations exist between patient demographics, health behaviours and excessive alcohol consumption.

Key points

  • This study illustrates that brief alcohol screening tools can be successfully used in general dental practice to identify patients at risk of harm from excessive alcohol consumption.

  • Harmful levels of alcohol consumption were identified in nearly half of the patients screened.

  • Males, younger adults, smokers and those who consumed red meat weekly were more likely to consume levels of alcohol above the recommended limits.

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The authors would like to express their gratitude to all the dental staff and patients for their cooperation and participation in the study.

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Correspondence to Richard G. Watt.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest. This paper presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit Programme (Grant Reference Number PB-PG-0212-27029). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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Venturelli, R., Ntouva, A., Porter, J. et al. Use of AUDIT-C alcohol screening tool in NHS general dental practices in North London. Br Dent J (2021).

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