Helping Patients Understand What They Can’t See

Posted on Sep 09, 2015 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

For many of us, we not only want to know how to do something, but why it’s beneficial to do it a certain way. For instance, if I understand that using a higher octane gas in a new car will give more efficient mileage than a cheaper grade, I’ll likely pay a little more at the pump to get a better value in the long run.

In dentistry, it’s also helpful to understand why a particular treatment is needed in addition to what is needed. Occasionally, we have patients who are referred to us for care but are unaware of the advantages of the care they’ve been sent to have.

We find that, once patients are familiar with the ‘why,’ they tend to feel better about the treatment that is recommended for their particular needs. This applies especially to people who have periodontal disease. Because periodontal (gum) disease can have mild symptoms in initial stages, some people do not comprehend the amount of damage that is actually occurring in their mouths.

Here’s an example… a patient is referred to us with severe periodontal disease. He is experiencing symptoms that include persistent bad breath, sore gums, gums that bleed easily and swollen pockets around the base of some teeth. We begin by explaining how oral bacteria is literally eating away at their gum tissue and supporting tooth structures. It’s not unusual for people to be surprised when we explain that some teeth have become so loose that removal is required.

The biggest surprise for many with periodontal disease is when we explain that oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in diseased gum tissue. Once bloodborne, the bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. Research has linked the bacteria of gum disease with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, impotency and other serious health problems.

It is not only important that patients are aware of what is happening in their mouths, but what will happen if the problem persists. Gum disease, like any chronic disease in the body, does not just go away. It does not repair itself. To the contrary, gum disease runs rampant and is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

When natural teeth are lost, an entirely new set of problems begin. Without natural tooth roots in the jaw bone, the bone begins to shrink. This decline in bone mass weakens the ability to bite and chew. For denture wearers, it decreases the foundation a denture is contoured to fit. This results in continual changes that lead to slips and uncomfortable rubbing.

Conquering periodontal disease early saves time and treatment expense. It can also save your teeth! And, by ridding your mouth of gum disease bacteria, you decrease your risks for developing other serious health problems, some that can have deadly consequences.

Keeping you ‘in the know’ gives you the ability to make decisions that are best for your individual goals. We will always strive to help you understand ‘why’ so you are a more-involved participant in your oral health.

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