Let’s face it, most of us don’t care much for change. Dental teams typically don’t like to change their protocols and patients may be resistant to shifts in practice procedures. Change can feel like a lot of work with an uncertain payoff. Worst of all, it’s scary.
But the fact is that in the dental practice, when it comes to changing certain procedures in the patient exam, the change can have a significant positive impact on the overall health of the patient. Such is the case when it comes to perio assessment.
One third of hygiene production should be in interceptive periodontal therapy. That is the industry standard. As a healthcare provider, you have a medical responsibility to integrate interceptive periodontal therapy into the hygiene protocols. There is now strong evidence indicating that the toxins released by the gum cells in response to bacteria can get into the bloodstream daily. These toxins can then go anywhere the blood flows.
Moreover, it has been clearly documented that eliminating gum inflammation can reduce the risk for heart disease. For diabetics, gum disease makes controlling blood sugar even more difficult. A study in The Journal of Periodontology found that poorly controlled type 2 diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease than well-controlled diabetics are.
Research has emerged that suggests that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways - periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar level. This puts diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications. Thus, diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated to eliminate the periodontal infection.
These are potentially life altering health concerns. Clearly, you can no longer sit back and say to the patient, “Well if it doesn’t hurt, let’s just keep an eye on it.” Since dental health professionals now know that the patient’s overall health is affected, it is more critical than ever to address periodontal health with patients.
Educating and teaching new patients about the office protocol is easy. Introducing existing patients to this change, however, will likely require a little more time and patient education, but it is imperative not just to the practice, but, most importantly, to the patient.
When asked by the existing patient, “Why hasn’t this procedure been done before?” you have an excellent opportunity to emphasize the advances in research and the development of new procedures that have emerged in dental medicine establishing a much clearer understanding of the link between oral health and its impact on our overall health.Consider this approach with the patient:
Gum disease is caused by bacteria. This leads to an increased risk for more serious health problems. For example, bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream when the gums are inflamed. These bacteria can attach to platelets. These clumps of platelets and bacteria can lodge inside the walls of blood vessels causing heart stopping clots to form. These clots are what lead to heart disease. Keeping your gums healthy can reduce your risk for a heart attack.
In addition, studies show that people with long-standing gum disease are more likely to have strokes. For diabetics, the presence of any gum inflammation can make it much more difficult for a diabetic to control their blood sugar. Elimination of any gum inflammation can directly improve diabetic control.
For women who are pregnant or considering having children, those with gum disease are seven to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely to low birth weight babies. Researchers believe that gum disease causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals, which are linked to pre-term birth.
One of the most beneficial procedures in dentistry is the screening process that enables us to detect gum disease in the earliest stages. As a result, a conservative therapy can be performed before the disease and infection are allowed to progress.
There is plenty of evidence linking healthy gums with overall health. The case is so compelling that one would have to ask, are you really fulfilling your responsibilities as a healthcare provider if you aren’t routinely providing periodontal assessments? Only you can answer that.
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