Nearly Half of US Adults Have Periodontal Disease

September 26, 2012

Recent data from a Journal of Dental Research study indicate 47.2% (64.7 million) Americans age 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease.  By demographic, the prevalence of periodontitis increases to 57.2% for those ages 50-64 and 70.1% for those 65 and over.

For practicing clinicians, this is likely not news.   You know they have perio; you see it every day.  The bigger issue is how to convince the patient it’s a problem that needs treatment sooner rather than later.

We tell them, we tell them again, and sometimes again.  You think, they must know or what is it that they don’t know that I could tell them to make a difference.

Rather than giving them more information, what if we focused on trying to make the patient ‘feel the want’? Change often results from creating feelings.  Why is whitening so popular?  It makes us feel good.

How do you make patients ‘feel the want’ for periodontal therapy?  One way is word choice.   Which words demand more attention; telling them they have periodontal disease or calling it an infection?  How about the pocket?  A bit of a mystery to most patients, I’m guessing.  What if we referred to it as a  ‘wound’ – and the treatments we suggest as ‘wound healing’.  I’ve heard it said that in a patient with a moderate to severe periodontal infection, if the diseased pocket epithelium was laid out end to end, it would result in an infection the size of palm of a hand.  Think your patient would defer treatment for a wound that size?  Likely not.

What about self-care?   We can carry the infection theme by suggesting ways they can ‘disinfect’ their mouth at home on a daily basis and prevent a reoccurrence of the infection.

Would these things help patients ‘feel the want’?  I think so.  What do you think?  What ways have you been successful getting your patients to ‘want’ periodontal therapy or adhere to regular home care?

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