It’s been a hot topic among dental professionals for several years, and now the link between periodontal disease and systemic health problems has been determined.
According to an article on medicalexpress.com, the “culprit” in the inflammatory conditions linked to periodontal disease is a systemic overproduction of neutrophils. It appears that gum disease “primes” neutrophils to strongly attack any secondary infection; in fact, the response is so strong that cytokines are released, triggering an inflammatory response that mistakenly damages the infected organs and tissues.
A host of research links various forms of cancer and other diseases to inflammation, but in the COVID era, the outlook is perhaps even more dire. The “cytokine storm” observed in many severely ill COVID patients would be added to the existing inflammation, decreasing the likelihood for survival.
Your Patients Can Control This
So many things during this pandemic are outside our control. Periodontal disease doesn’t have to be one of them. This is information that your patients – with or without diagnosed but untreated periodontal disease – need to hear, and it should come from you.
Use all the communication channels at your disposal – email, text, website, letters, your newsletter if you have one, and even consider postcards and flyers. Bear in mind that your patient base contains people from every generation, some of whom aren’t overly comfortable with electronic communication.
Stress to your patients, almost all of whom will be waiting for vaccination against COVID, that they can almost immediately reduce their risk by getting a cleaning and exam plus treatment if indicated. Position yourself and your team as allies in safeguarding their health and wellbeing.
Use layman’s terms – for instance, gum disease instead of periodontal disease, and white blood cells instead of neutrophils – to make reading and comprehension easier. You should aim for a middle-school reading comprehension level, and there are a number of “readability” checkers online to help you reach that goal.
Now, more than ever before, dentists are on the front line against COVID and related conditions. It’s up to you to get the word out.
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