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Getting the Jump on Gum Disease: 2 Ways To Improve Diagnostic Methods

Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Periodontal Disease | Comments Off on Getting the Jump on Gum Disease: 2 Ways To Improve Diagnostic Methods

According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, about half of the adult population has early-stage gingivitis. So it shouldn’t be surprising to the dental community that more and more people will be at risk for gum disease in the future.

Because gum disease has been linked to numerous secondary conditions, like heart disease, it’s surprising that pocket probing doesn’t always take place at routine check-ups. Patients may be concerned with cavities in their teeth but give little thought to their gums. Or they may know they have gingivitis but do little to change their current habits since a dentist may not recommend them for scaling and root planing.

While a person’s brushing and flossing habits are obviously in their hands, dentists could help change the general public’s attitude towards gum health.

For example, in the following article by hygienist Ayla Dervisevic, she says that hygienists have a responsibility to speak up to dentists if they have concerns over a patient’s health:

You, the gatekeeper: Overcoming Barriers to Diagnosing Periodontitis

Thirteen years into my dental hygiene career and three periodontal practices later, I am still surprised how people will ignore an issue like periodontal disease. If you were bleeding from anywhere else in your body for 10 or more years, would you not do anything to stop it? There is a perceived “mouth-body” disconnect in the general population, and most will not set foot in our periodontal practice without a healthy nudge from their general dentist

In all of my years practicing, I have had many different general dentists tell me what periodontal disease is or is not, as if I was not trained to diagnose it myself. I had one even tell me that he doesn’t “believe” that periodontal disease has a disease process. He thought some people just get it and others do not. Sounded to me like someone wasn’t having any success treating it and didn’t know what else to do. At that point I thought to myself, “How many hygienists are trying to diagnose inflammation, gingivitis, and trying to treatment plan with this kind of a barrier?”

A study published in the Journal of Dental Education states that there is an “undue variation in periodontal diagnoses and treatment plans” in dentists and dental students. The study wanted to test the efficacy of “consensus training.” They found that there were “variation(s) involving diagnosis of extent and severity of periodontal condition, as well as variation in the extent and choices of treatment planning.”1 How could this finding not affect how well we are able to treat or refer our patients? Read full article here . . .

While it’s certainly true that some people are more prone to gum disease, what about people who get it who are also reasonably healthy? There seems to be a disconnect not only between patients and dentists, but between hygienists and dentists in their examination habits.

Instead of letting people fall through the cracks if they are reasonably healthy, dentists should take preventative measures at the first signs of early gingivitis. One possible reason dentists may be hesitant at dishing out periodontist referrals is because of additional costs. If a patient doesn’t immediately need SRP, he or she may be irked by the additional treatment prices. However, the Dental Tribune says that dentists can mitigate cost concerns and examination concerns with a ‘whole-body’ approach:

The Future of Oral Health’ Explores Impact of Oral Disease on Whole Body

The impact of oral disease on whole-body health and the changes to the practice of dentistry worldwide are the subjects of “The Future of Oral Heath,” a new publication produced by Scientific American Custom Media, in collaboration with Colgate-Palmolive Company. The issue launched Oct. 21 at the American Dental Association’s Annual Meeting in Denver during a panel discussion moderated by Jeremy Abbate, vice president and publisher of Scientific American and the publishing director of “The Future of Oral Heath.”

The publication explores science, policy and new delivery models to better understand the current and future state of the multifaceted oral health field. Within the issue are updates on:

The oral health of a growing elderly population; global health issue of caries and periodontal diseases and the latest industry developments helping to improve access and cost-of-care in these areas. The state of the science linking oral health and other areas of medicine and changes in the relationships between the dental and medical communities as they slowly de-silo and integrate to deliver better care and greater access for patients. You can read more about how this publication could help your practice here . . .

As you can see, if dentists stay up to date on these kinds of publications, they may have more ideas on how to cut costs for those seeking early care for periodontal issues. Along with consensus training with hygienists, dentists will be  able to improve and streamline their diagnostic methods in regards to periodontal care.

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