Would you ignore heart disease?
New European research has concluded that billions could be saved if periodontitis is prevented early. Periodontitis is the sixth most prevalent disease in the world, affecting at least half the worlds population. Several studies show that gum disease can be associated to several systemic diseases, such as Cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and more.
There is still a lack of understanding and awareness of gum disease between allied health professionals, the general public and dental professionals. On average three in four adults with gum disease do not know they have the condition. Why?
Are our roles as dental professionals not to provide the optimum level patient care, preventing dental disease? If this is the case, why do so many people who have gum disease not know what that means?
It would be easy to write the many possible answers to this question, but the important thing is being able to identify steps to rectify this and move forward increasing awareness of gum disease and its associations not just working as a united dental team but a united healthcare team.
Within the dental team Hygienists and Therapists could be utilised to provide regular prevention following routine examinations, giving the patient oral hygiene instruction including toothbrushing and interdental cleaning as well as providing advice on fluoride, mouthwash, and the importance of a healthy mouth. Early prevention should aid in the ability to spot potential warning signs before they are permitted to progress.
The affordability of dental care should be improved, to allow everyone, the opportunity to receive the same level of care, through health campaigns if required. Periodontitis is a complex disease and, in many cases, not all dentition is affected making it difficult to determine the value and cost of treatment. There needs to be better integration of allied health professionals and the dental team, highlighting the risks of associations with other diseases that could worsen existing conditions. Referring patients to the right professionals when required.
Would you ignore heart disease? Or Alzheimer’s disease? Gum disease should be given the same level of attention and treatment. Early intervention must be provided to prevent a formal diagnosis of gum disease. Periodontitis is too late.
Kyle Anderson is the Scottish Representative for the British Association of Dental Therapists (badt.org.uk).