Primary Care Providers Can Help Prevent Periodontal Disease

One out of every two adults aged 30 and over has periodontal disease, according to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Periodontal Disease is an ongoing infection in the gingival tissues (gums). Plaque builds up on the teeth and hardens into calculus. Calculus is porous and therefore fills with bacteria that cause irritation to the gingival tissue and surrounding bone support. The bone and tissue pull away from the bacteria and this process is what causes 75% of adult tooth loss.

Periodontal Disease Is Linked to Other Health Problems
Periodontal disease not only causes bad breath, general pain/discomfort and tooth loss, it has also been linked to low birth weight and pre-term labor in pregnant women, and increased blood sugar in diabetics. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with this disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease.

The oral cavity is the window for viewing internal health. When there is a constant infection in the mouth, like periodontitis, the immune system is compromised. Ultimately, this results in overall poor health, costly dental prevention, and maintenance treatment.

There is no cure for periodontal disease. However, regular dental visits and knowledge of proper home hygiene care play a key role in prevention. Even with our advanced technology and many prevention techniques, we still have a high population who suffer from periodontitis.

Primary Care Providers Can Help by Referring Patients to Dental Homes
Primary care providers can help stop the advancement of oral diseases by performing annual oral assessments and referring patients to a dental home. Regular encouragement and prevention education from one’s physician is an important reminder to patients that their oral health is important. It can also help prevent an emergency visit due to a dental infection.

Educating patients on good oral care will not only benefit your clinic, but will also aid in a healthier community with fewer health complications, fewer children affected by early childhood caries, an increase in teens entering into adulthood cavity free, and a decrease in adults with periodontal disease.

Some great resources for providers and their staff on oral health education in a medical setting includes the First Tooth Program and Smiles for Life, a National Oral Health curriculum.

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