I saw a patient recently whose main concern was, “Why won’t the dentist just clean my teeth?” He came from another office and was frustrated by their recommendation for periodontal therapy. He did not understand why he could no longer be treated with the same regular cleaning he had been receiving for decades.

The patient’s periodontal charting showed the presence of active periodontal disease– look how many pocket depths (the “PD” lines in the above chart) are deeper than 3mm, which means he should be treated with periodontal therapy. This has become a common point of misunderstanding for several reasons.

More About Periodontal Disease

First, periodontitis can present as signs without obvious symptoms until it develops into a very advanced stage. Many people who have periodontal disease do not even know they have it.

Second, dentists and doctors continue to develop a better understanding of the periodontal disease process and its implications for a person’s systemic health. Periodontitis is not just about teeth anymore, it has implications for the health of the rest of the body as well.

Third, dentists have an ethical and a legal obligation to treat a diagnosis of periodontal disease with the appropriate treatment, and the appropriate treatment is not a prophylactic (preventive) cleaning.