The topic of oral health and its effect on systemic health is becoming more of an interest within our industry. Studies and research into these topic areas show links between chronic periodontitis and many medical issues. Diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke, pregnancy and even fertility to name a few.
With the supportive evidence demonstrating strong links between these conditions and unstable periodontitis, do we have an obligation to spread awareness about it to help maintain the systemic health of our patients?
Diabetes as an example
Let’s take diabetes patients for example. Diabetics have an increased risk of more extensive and severe periodontitis due to the increased circulating inflammatory markers released because of their diabetes. Chronic inflammation has the potential to cause damage to blood vessels or arteries and cause a reduced healing capacity. These events can combine to affect their chance of successful periodontal treatment.
Increased sugar levels in their blood and saliva provide an environment that bacteria can flourish. Thus making biofilm control more difficult. As a result, the risk of advancing periodontitis is dramatically increased. Therefore, I believe it is imperative these patients are put on frequent recalls after diagnosis to prevent periodontal deterioration.
But what if a diabetic patient doesn’t know this risk? A patient who comes to see you, has a parent or child that has just been diagnosed with diabetes? Unfortunately, the link between oral health and diabetes control may not be a top priority in diabetes management after diagnosis. Patients aren’t often made aware of the need for increased dental care for prevention and treatment. It is no less important though, so we do need to make sure this awareness is spread from our side.
Unstable periodontitis causes chronic inflammation
Preventing issues or diagnosing them early provides a much greater chance of stabilising disease and preventing tooth loss. This is especially important in diabetics, because unstable periodontitis causes chronic inflammation which causes blood sugar levels to become harder to control. And with diabetes increasing the risk of blindness and other systemic issues for the patient, we should be doing all we can to help them control their condition with what part we can play.
Use waiting room TV to educate your patients
A great way to spread this awareness is to have the information available to patients in the waiting room. As they wait for their appointment to start, they can be receiving these important messages. It may lead to initiating conversations in the appointment. It may lead to an opportunity to book them an appointment with the hygiene department for oral health optimisation. Or it may prompt them to book their parent or child in for an appointment. If your practice screens for systemic health issues like blood pressure and diabetes, this can promote those other services you provide.
There is no better way to present vital information than with waiting room TV, like that supplied by www.envisagedental.net.
Envisage Dental TV will capture your patients attention whilst they sit in the waiting room. The educational advice in video form are so powerful. If we go back to the original question, do we have an obligation to spread awareness about the link between oral health and general health? I believe we do, to do our part to maintain the systemic health of our population.
Claire Berry is a multi -award winning hygienist and author. Claire trained as a dental hygienist whilst serving in the Army, qualifying in 2009. Currently works in 3 practices, as well as being a key opinion leader for brands such as Oral B, Boutique and an ambassador for the BSDHT. With articles published in BDJ In Practice, The Probe, Smile magazine, DH Contact, Young Dentist magazine, as well as numerous FMC publications including a monthly hygienist blog and is on the board for Clinical Dentistry Magazine and Dental Nurse magazine