As professionals who work directly and/or indirectly in the field of dentistry, it can be easy to get wrapped up in our individual goals related to career aspirations and practice growth. It’s important, however, that we don’t lose sight of putting patients first — ensuring they receive the highest caliber of care that will make them feel comfortable while also providing the kind of results they need to maintain their oral health.
With the FDI World Dental Federation’s recent report on periodontal disease prevention, we get the opportunity to step back and get a clear picture of the trends and problem points affecting the identification and treatment of periodontal disease. Below are six of the key takeaways from the report to help us realign our initiatives with better patient care.
- Severe periodontitis affects nearly 750 million people in the world. With 85% of U.S. adults suffering from some form of periodontitis, it’s safe to say we have an epidemic on our hands. But periodontitis is also a global problem. According to the FDI, it is “the sixth most prevalent among all 291 diseases and conditions investigated, affecting 11.2% of the global population, or 743 million people.”
- “Overwhelming evidence shows that periodontitis can be successfully treated in the majority of patients — and regenerative therapy requires less re-treatments.” Part of the reason why the disease persists and proliferates is patient hesitance to undergo traditional surgery, which can be perceived as painful and less effective. Regenerative treatments, like the LANAP protocol, can have immense benefits for patients, as noted by the FDI: “It has recently been demonstrated that regenerative surgical therapy, though generating initially higher expenses for patients, requires less re-interventions within a 20-year long-term perspective because of less recurrence of the disease than after routine access flap surgery.”
- Financial factors such as inappropriate insurance reimbursement and profitability for dentists lead to over-placement of dental implants. Keeping your natural teeth has been proven as the best way to maintain your oral and overall health, but dental implants have become so popular that teeth once considered worth saving are being yanked out in favor of implants. “Despite all the scientific evidence, inappropriate reimbursement may result in premature extraction of treatable teeth followed by [placement of] dental implants.” The reason for this? Dental implantology is “generally more profitable for the dentist than the treatment of periodontitis.” Despite the rush to place implants, FDI notes that “use of dental implants in periodontally susceptible individuals poses an increased risk for the development of peri-implantitis.”
- Recent data suggest that the prevalence of peri-implantitis is high (22%, range: 1% to 47%). The FDI notes that implants are “frequently advertised as ‘teeth for life'” to patients, but the numbers show that is simply not the case. On average, nearly a quarter of implants experience peri-implantitis. That means the implants will be at risk for failure and have to be replaced in another costly procedure. As an alternative, the LAPIP protocol has shown the ability to help treat peri-implantitis without invasive surgery or costly biomaterials and save implants from being lost.
- The treatment of periodontitis leads to reduction in treatment for other serious illnesses. The existence of the oral-systemic connection continues to gain support from the FDI. They report that “evidence from big insurance data demonstrates that the medical costs and hospitalizations for individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, cerebral vascular disease, coronary artery disease and pregnancy remarkably reduce by 40.2%, 40.9%, 10.7%, and 73.7% respectively if they are treated for periodontal diseases.” This is an addition to previous studies and evidence that have linked periodontitis treatment to a reduction in risk for other potentially deadly illnesses.
- There is a need to increase professional and public awareness of treatment options. The overarching theme of the report indicates that periodontitis treatment continues to be misunderstood by both patients and dental professionals alike. Educating patients about what periodontitis can mean for their mouths and overall health is crucial, in addition to presenting them with newer methods that may result in less fear of treatment. Additionally, doctors should consider the long-term effects of pulling teeth prematurely and/or placing implants in compromised environments over the short-term monetary gain.
Together, we can work to end the fear or apathy patients may have about treating their gum disease, as well as move the industry forward toward a better mode of patient care.
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