by JoAnn R. Gurenlian, RDH, PhD
For those of you who truly enjoy learning about periodontal diseases and caring for those with periodontal conditions, there are two resources that you may want to have at your fingertips.
In July, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) released a report titled “Comprehensive Periodontal Therapy: A Statement by the American Academy of Periodontology.” This statement was developed through the Task Force to Update the Guidelines for Periodontal Therapy, and approved by the AAP during November 2010. The AAP recognizes the advances made in both knowledge and treatment, and updates their concept of the scope of periodontal care. The report captures this update in terms of periodontal evaluation, establishing a diagnosis, prognosis and treatment planning, informed consent and patient records, treatment procedures, evaluation of therapy, factors modifying results, and periodontal maintenance. To obtain a copy of the guidelines, visit www.perio.org.
The other resource available for exploring dimensions of the pathogenesis of periodontal disease and connections between periodontal disease and systemic health is Genco and Williams’ text “Periodontal Disease and Overall Health: A Clinican’s Guide.” This book, supported by an educational grant from the Colgate-Palmolive Company, is available online at www.colgateprofessional.com and can be downloaded for free.
Now that you know about these two resources, there are some things to take into consideration. It is difficult to stay abreast of current information. Why not distribute the AAP report among the staff of the office and schedule a meeting to discuss how your office measures up in terms of comprehensive periodontal therapy.
What does your informed consent look like? What evaluations do you perform to assess the patient’s response to therapy? What constitutes maintenance therapy for your practice? Are there areas that can be expanded?
This is a golden opportunity to reconsider this facet of the practice and determine areas that can be modified. Wouldn’t your patients like to know that the office cares about their periodontal health and is taking measures to stay current?
Study clubs might be a perfect venue for reviewing the chapters of the Genco/Williams’ text. Can you imagine spending time discussing select chapters and considering what that information might mean for improving the oral health of your patients? You could invite periodontists to attend these meetings and share their perceptions of the oral/systemic health relationship, and develop new protocols for managing care based on factors that may modify results of traditional treatment. Imagine forging new partnerships to help improve the periodontal status of our patients.
It excites me to think that we have an opportunity to set a new foundation for periodontal care in our practice settings. As our understanding of the nature of periodontal disease increases, so too can our focus, delivery models, and methods of evaluation. We know that the prevalence of periodontal disease is very likely underreported, so let’s take a moment to rethink how we approach our patients and what we can be doing to change the statistics about this disease.
Can we use other assessment tools to identify periodontal problems? Is there room for preventive measures similar to how we are approaching caries? Is there an opportunity to educate periodontal patients differently? Are there other approaches to motivating our patients to want to change their periodontal status?
The next time your local or state organization is asking for ideas for a program, why not suggest a think tank session to discuss periodontal disease, prevention, and therapy? Rather than have a speaker review concepts, invite a facilitator to encourage group discussion about the changing face of periodontal disease. Talk about and create a new approach to the dental hygiene dimension of periodontal assessment, education, and treatment. Challenge your group to think beyond the norm and brainstorm ideas for improving this aspect of oral health.
Then, try your ideas and see how they work, and help the rest of us by putting your ideas and findings on dental hygiene websites, and articles in this magazine and others. It would be wonderful to learn from one another this way.
Something tells me that if we put our heads together, we can make a difference in supporting new facets of periodontal care and improving the periodontal health of the public.
JoAnn R. Gurenlian, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing-education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and interim dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, adjunct faculty at Burlington County College and Montgomery County College, and president-elect of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.
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