Considering periodontal disease plagues approximately 64.7 million people in the U.S., there is a need to take a closer look at how dental professionals can continue to arm their patients with every available option to treat and prevent this disease.
The mental health impact of periodontal disease
Dr. Samuel Low
A June 2021 study published by the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggests there is a correlation between higher rates of depression and periodontal disease. Overall, patients living with depression, or other mental health issues like anxiety, often struggle with health routines and self-care, causing oral health to be low on their list of priorities.
If patients are experiencing symptoms of chronic gingivitis, such as inflamed and bleeding gums, they are likely living with chronic pain and discomfort. This ongoing pain can often lead to depression in daily life and anxiety about going to the dentist as well.
The physical health impact of periodontal disease
When it comes to the physical toll of periodontal disease, it can affect much more than the gingivae. Patients with this disease are at greater risk of developing a number of serious health conditions in all parts of the body, reinforcing the notion that periodontal disease can reach far beyond the mouth. These conditions include an increased risk of gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer, diabetes and insulin resistance, and Alzheimer's disease.
Furthermore, research suggests that patients with periodontal disease are twice as likely to experience cardiovascular disease, twice as likely to have increased blood pressure, and more likely to develop lung cancer as well. If periodontal disease is not treated early, it can have lifelong effects on a patient's health, which reinforces the importance of treating the gums to prevent this disease from occurring in the first place.
To prevent periodontal disease, dental professionals must ensure they are providing patients with effective debridement during periodic recall. Effective debridement can be achieved through laser bacterial reduction (LBR), a treatment that has proved highly successful in reducing the harmful plaque that can compromise dental and overall health, and uses high-intensity light around the teeth, especially at the gumline.
One such tool is the Epic Hygiene laser from Biolase, which recently received regulatory clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for therapy indication. Lasers like these allow for the early management of periodontal disease, utilizing laser light energy to reduce bacteria and decrease inflammation and ultimately enhancing periodontal health.
Another key element in preventing periodontal disease is ensuring that the patient receives adequate pocket debridement. These procedures can help disrupt biofilm and remove calculus to manage infection as well as inflammation in the gingivae -- which is how periodontal disease begins.
Dental lasers are excellent devices to augment debridement and can create better access. Using technology equipment that allows patients to feel more at ease helps encourage them to continue their care. Furthermore, the approach offered by lasers causes less postoperative pain for patients who may need a procedure to curb their periodontal disease before it becomes more serious.
We must instill confidence in our patients when it comes to taking care of oral health at home and emphasize the importance of gingival health so that they understand the gravity of the physical and mental toll that periodontal disease can have.
Dr. Samuel Low was named vice president, dental and clinical affairs, and chief dental officer of Biolase in October 2016. Low is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Dentistry and associate faculty member of the Pankey Institute. He has 30 years of private practice experience in periodontics, lasers, and implant placement. He is also a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
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