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While dentistry and healthcare are often considered separate, they aren’t. The mouth is another part of the human body. The oral cavity harbors a diverse microbiome with 500-700 different species of microorganisms, second only to the gut. This means that the mouth hosts billions and billions of bacteria — which makes it an easy target for disease. Not looking after your oral health properly not only puts you at greater risk for oral disease, but it also increases your risk for systemic disease in general. Dental professionals play a big role in helping their patients remain healthier overall, especially by being able to diagnose, treat, and keep gum disease in remission for those who suffer from its presence. Those who keep up with their oral health and their dental appointments live better lives.
Periodontitis (periodontal disease) is considered an autoimmune disease, because its chronic inflammation causes the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues. The bacterial byproducts of the disease enter the bloodstream, causing your body to set off an immune response. As it progresses, periodontitis causes bone and gum loss around the teeth, ultimately leading to tooth loss if it is not properly treated. The presence of active periodontal disease has a big impact on the overall health of those affected.
WATCH: “Overall Inflammation and Oral Health”
The first step in treating periodontal disease is often called a “deep cleaning”, though this is also referred to as a “Scaling and Root Planing” procedure. For those who are affected by this disease, deep cleanings need to be completed instead of regular cleanings, because the regular cleanings do not get below the gum line — the main place where periodontal disease festers. For those suffering from this condition, the area below the gum line is where bacteria, plaque and build-up accumulate. If this is not regularly removed, the disease will worsen.
WATCH: “What is a deep cleaning?”
There are some other ways that patients suffering from periodontal disease can keep it in remission. Take a look at the image below to get an idea on how those affected can help keep the disease at bay by making healthy lifestyle changes in their daily routine.
READ: “What’s the least I can do to stay healthy?”
The Consequences of Not Treating Periodontal Disease
Leaving periodontitis untreated will lead to the loss of both the gum tissue surrounding the teeth and the supporting bone. The bones supporting the teeth are like the foundation supporting a building — if the foundation is weakened, the building cannot stand, even if it lacks problems itself. Eventually, untreated gum disease will dissolve so much of the bone that it will result in tooth loss, even if the teeth are perfectly healthy otherwise.
The inflammatory response that your body has to untreated periodontal disease means that you are at a higher risk of developing other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others.
WATCH: “Gum Disease and Inflammation”
ADA Codes: Periodontal Disease
From this point forward in this course topic, pages that explain dental diseases will include the “ADA codes” related to each disease if there are any. ADA codes are assigned to specific procedures by the American Dental Association to identify them for insurance purposes. While working in a dental office, you’ll likely see these codes one way or another. By memorizing these codes or at least writing them down, you’ll be ahead and better prepared for your dental office career.
Educating Patients About Periodontal Disease
Much like the case with cavities and tooth decay, patients often find themselves confused when it comes to periodontal disease. Answering patient questions can help to reassure them that their treatment plan will make a positive impact in their life. Below is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions from patients about gum disease. Take note of the answers given in the videos linked to each question — this might help you formulate your own answers to these questions when they arise.
Commonly asked question #1: “What’s the difference between gingivitis and periodontal disease?” (WATCH)
Commonly asked question #2: “Can I get rid of periodontal (gum) disease?” (WATCH)
Commonly asked question #3: “I have advanced periodontal disease. What are my options?” (WATCH)
Commonly asked question #4: “What’s the best treatment for periodontal disease?” (WATCH)
Commonly asked question #5: “Can probiotics help to keep periodontal disease in remission?” (WATCH)
If you’d like to learn even more about gum disease, check out the educational materials on the pages here, here, and here.