A dental practice in the U.K. will no longer treat patients who weigh 127 kg (about 280 lb) or more to prevent them from damaging their expensive dental chairs again, according to recent news reports.
Hove Family Dental in East Sussex recently sent an email to patients, informing them that they would no longer treat patients of that weight because they could "exceed equipment capabilities," according to an account published in The Daily Mail. Some patients say the ban is nothing more than fat shaming and discrimination, according to the report.
"This is a polite message to all our patients from the Hove family dental practice," the email that was published in The Daily Mail said. "Due to health and safety regulations, we will unfortunately not be able to treat patients that exceed the safety weight limit restrictions for our dental chairs of 127kg [20 stones]."
The practice claims that dental chairs are pricey, costing about $24,500, and that the practice was forced to close on two occasions so that technicians could repair a part that broke twice under the weight of patients.
In 2019, the Health Survey of England estimated that 28% of British adults were obese and about 36% were overweight, according to reports. In March 2020, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the U.S. obesity prevalence to be nearly 42% in 2017.
In addition to costly repairs and a practice shutdown, the practice manager claims that treating overweight patients is a health and safety problem for dental team members who have had to help get obese patients in and out of dental chairs, according to the Daily Mail. The practice manager recognized that this is a delicate subject but said that the practice had to move in this direction due to an influx of obese patients.
"We appreciate and understand that this is a sensitive issue and want to address this with our patients in a delicate manner, but we do have a duty of care to all our patients and a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to operate in a safe environment and not exceed equipment capabilities," the email stated.
Some patients have called the practice's policy change disgraceful, saying the ban is body-shaming people with underlying health conditions that may prevent them from managing their weight, according to reports.
"With pressures already on the health service and difficulties in funding a dentist, this only makes the problem worse," said one patient in the Daily Mail article.