Periodontal disease is often difficult to detect on your own, but it can have serious implications for your overall health.
Many people with periodontal disease are not even aware they have it.
We actually wish periodontal disease hurt! Pain is typically a clear indication to people that there is a problem with their body. Unfortunately, periodontitis often presents as signs (conditions that can be seen/detected during a clinical exam) without obvious symptoms (conditions you can detect yourself such as pain, bleeding, and tooth movement) until it develops into a very advanced stage. Without regular thorough dental exams and very effective communication, you may not realize you have periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is associated with many other health problems.
In the past, dentists and doctors didn’t realize the systemic implications of periodontal disease and the chronic inflammation it causes. As we continue to develop a better understanding of the periodontal disease process and its implications for a person’s systemic health, it becomes even more important to treat the disease effectively. Periodontal disease leads to loss of the bone that holds the teeth in place. Now we know that it also has very direct ties to both diabetes and heart disease. In addition, it has also been associated with numerous conditions including pregnancy complications, COPD, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cognitive impairment (including Alzheimer’s), obesity, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Effective treatment of periodontal disease requires periodontal therapy.
The standard of care requires that when dentists diagnose a condition, they offer options for treatment. However, a patient cannot legally consent to a treatment that is below the standard of care for a given condition or procedure. A “regular” dental cleaning is actually referred to as a “prophylaxis.” That is, it is designed to prevent disease. Periodontal therapy is a treatment designed to treat a disease that is already present. That is why we cannot “treat” periodontal disease with a “regular” (prophylactic) cleaning. Consider getting a large splinter in your finger: washing your hands with soap and water will not address the problems the splinter will cause. In order to stay healthy, you have to remove the splinter. Providing a “regular” prophylactic cleaning to a patient with periodontal disease is like washing your hands instead of removing the splinter.