Periodontitis: how can we help?

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  Posted by: The Probe      21st July 2020

Dental professionals will be aware that periodontitis remains a significant problem among the patient population. But are professionals doing enough to guide and educate patients about their gum health?
Alison Edisbury, a dental hygienist and 2020 Ambassador for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), explains her approach to tackling perio in practice and some of her ideas surrounding the topic and education…

The root of the issue

 “We all know that periodontitis is a massive problem. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that there is too much focus on the cosmetic side of oral health and not enough appreciation for gum health – even among the industry,” Alison says.

“How many times have you treated a patient and seen minor inflammation? Although most of this is likely to be nothing to worry about in the short term, all inflammation is indicative of a problem, and so this is something we should be really making clear to patients every time.”

Changing patient perception

“Many patients are unaware of the true severity of gum disease, but as gums are the foundation of oral health, this view needs to change. I see it this way – why would you add a new roof to a house when the foundations are failing? We need to encourage patients to think of their teeth the same way and see that good periodontal health is essential for good oral health.

“In the practices I work in I tend to see a mix of age groups, but predominantly those aged under 18 and those over the age of 40. It’s rare to have a high volume of patients between these ages and this is a worry, especially as this is the sort of time where problems like periodontitis are likely to set in. During this time, I think it’s common for people to disconnect with their oral health a bit because they’re living life – they no longer have their parents booking appointments for them so they can easily lapse into not visiting the dentist/dental hygienist or dental therapist as much as they should be, and this inevitably has some impact.

“Throughout my career I’ve seen some really advanced cases of periodontitis and these aren’t necessarily in the patients you would expect. These are professional, highly educated people who look after their health and yet are still coming in with advanced inflammation and other symptoms – it’s all because people don’t really understand what’s going on in their mouths.

“As more evidence comes to light connecting periodontitis to general health conditions, including heart diseases and stroke, I think it’s time that we make this information more widely accessible for patients. It’s partly this that inspired me to start an Instagram page with information on periodontitis. I post relevant facts and pictures to try and spread the word and it’s definitely had a good response so far.

“Fundamentally, we also need a revolution in the education that patients receive surrounding oral health care. We are making big improvements in terms of teaching people to avoid caries, but what about gum health? I’m always shocked when I discover just how many people have no clue that periodontal health is just as important as avoiding caries, if not more so, which is why I always ensure any patients I see with periodontitis get this information straight away.”

 Treating patients with perio

“The first step when treating patients is to explain what periodontitis actually is. A lot of people tend to instantly assume that it’s a dirty disease and a direct result of bad hygiene. I like to make it clear that periodontitis is more of a balancing act between bacteria and external factors, and that something like stress or big hormonal changes are just as likely to trigger it than anything else. The point is to reduce the bacteria present so that if an imbalance does occur, less damage is done.

“Starting with this information removes the stigma surrounding the condition and allows us to move forward. From this point it really becomes about safeguarding against disease progression. Interdental cleaning advice is essential and I will also tell patients about the various options available for interdental cleaning – building from the basics is how to get the best results.”

Extra support from the BSDHT

“It is partially my interest in periodontitis that led me to apply to become an Ambassador for the BSDHT. I have always benefitted hugely from the support that the Society offers and I think it’s so important that people in the profession join bodies like this so that they can have their say. One of my mantras is that you shouldn’t moan about something if you’re not doing anything to change it, and this is why the BSDHT is so useful for people in our profession as they really encourage change in the industry!”

To find out more, please contact the BSDHT today.

 

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk


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