If you never have any cavities after your dental check-ups, you may think that you have a clean bill of health. However, this is a dangerous assumption to make! Although so much focus goes into protecting your enamel, there also needs to be a focus on the gums. While older adults may be the most prone to gum disease, young adults and even teenagers are at risk for gingivitis.

Gingivitis isn’t just a nuisance that can cause your teeth to bleed while flossing, it’s an inflammatory disease that can cause tooth loss; and, it can exacerbate and contribute to secondary conditions. However, if your dental office hasn’t given you any cause for concern, then why should you even care? According to a blog post by Ayla Dervisevic, a dental professional, this lack of concern may be caused by a disconnect between patients, dentists, and hygienists:

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??

What we can do now, in the practical real world, is have a conversation with the dentist about consensus training within our own offices. I love a good flowchart. We all know what the guidelines should be. The American Academy of Periodontology provides them for us. We know that systemic diseases exacerbate many cases of periodontal disease. We need to screen health history forms with scrutiny, looking for certain diseases and medications. Would it be helpful to have that on the back of your cabinet door? Talk with your dentist about his or her consulting periodontal specialist. What are that doctor?s capabilities? Maybe we are sending our patients to the wrong places, if any periodontal referrals go out at all?

Did I hit a nerve?? If I did, you really need to have that discussion with your dentist and any other hygienists that work with you. Believe me, unless they are hoping to get sued they will need to listen to you. The tools are all there for you. Put on your big-girl or big-boy pants and remember that you are a professional just as they are and this is your specialty and your license. Read full blog post here.

While it could be easy to take these sentiments and blame the dentist for your poor gum health, the fact of the matter is that both hygienists and patients need to be proactive with their concerns. For instance, if a dentist has just been cleaning your teeth at visits, you can ask if he or she can also measure the pockets in your gums. This is a quick way to assess your risk for gingivitis.

If you believe you could deeper cleaning, be sure to ask your dentist. There are no dumb questions when your health is involved! Your dentist may give you a referral so you can get scaling and root planing (SRP), but again, you should continue to be proactive with your research. While you may be eager to just get the bare minimum cleaning at the periodontist’s office, there are new products and technologies to consider. For instance, Arestin? is an FDA-approved drug that can increase the effectiveness of SRP. This drug is applied on your gums and will release medicine over time–well beyond your trip to the dentist’s office

Besides Arestin, there are many other drugs, technologies, etc. to consider in regards to your gum health. In fact, publications like “The Future of Oral Health,” are bringing gum diseases to the limelight.

‘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 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.
  • New tools being employed in diagnostics, biotechnology, and digital health that are advancing care, along with a special look at how dentistry and oral health will be managed in the future.
  • Philosophies and technologies that have fueled industry changes and ways in which global demographics are mandating more accommodating, on-demand approaches to dentistry that reduce cost and bring care to hard-to-reach populations. Read more here.

As you can see, these kinds of publications not only takes a look at how oral diseases can be treated, but how they can affect overall health. While these kinds of publications may be targeted towards dentists, there’s nothing from stopping you from picking one up and gleaning valuable information. If information to reduce gum issues and cost-of-care is so readily available, why not take advantage of it?