Periodontal disease is an epidemic. Why is it not being treated or even diagnosed?Oct 15, 2023
Periodontal disease is an overlooked epidemic with grave consequences for global health. Shockingly, it ranks as one of the top six infectious diseases worldwide. In the United States alone, over 50% of the population grapples with some form of this ailment. Despite its prevalence, a mere 3% get diagnosed and treated, and insurance claims for the disease account for less than 10% of the total.
How is it that with half of our patients harboring periodontal disease, so few receive treatment? This oversight is alarming given that the disease stands as a leading cause of tooth loss in the US. Although it originates as a local infection in the oral cavity, its repercussions resonate systemically. Ignoring it jeopardizes our overall health.
Historically, the periodontal disease paradigm posited that bacteria led to infection. Contemporary understanding, however, posits the opposite: infections amplify inflammation, predisposing individuals to a myriad of systemic diseases. For instance, periodontal infections make it challenging to control diabetes. Oral infections are also linked to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, dementia, various cancers, hypertension, premature births, and several other ailments. Timely treatment not only fosters oral health but also mitigates the risk of these associated diseases. Indeed, numerous studies indicate that addressing periodontal disease reduces hospitalizations for those with co-morbidities such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease. Insurance company research further underscores the financial benefits, revealing marked reductions in hospitalization costs when gum disease is treated.
So, with such compelling evidence, why does periodontal disease diagnosis and treatment lag? It may boil down to mere habit. Undertaking comprehensive examinations to diagnose and treat the disease will undoubtedly promote longer tooth preservation and enhanced systemic health. Habits are powerful determinants of human behavior. Much like daily rituals of brushing teeth, getting dressed, or taking morning showers, introducing, and adhering to healthy habits relies on established structures and protocols.
Isn’t it time that the medical profession shifts gear?. By instituting standard protocols, we pave the way for improved patient outcomes. Embracing this change is a win-win – benefiting patients, practitioners, and the broader community. The path to better health could very well start with acknowledging and combating the not so silent epidemic of periodontal disease.