Interview: “Healthy gingivae make our lives better”

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Interview: “Healthy gingivae make our lives better”

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European Gum Health Day aims to promote awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy gums. (Images: EFP)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

Fri. 12. May 2017

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A campaign launched by the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), the inaugural European Gum Health Day is being held today, May 12. With the slogan of “Fighting periodontal disease together”, the initiative aims to promote a cooperative approach between dentists and patients towards maintaining gingival health. Dental Tribune International spoke with Prof. Filippo Graziani, member of the EFP’s executive committee, about some of the events planned and the overall purpose.

What does the EFP hope to achieve through European Gum Health Day?

Essentially, we wish to increase the visibility and awareness of gingival health and periodontal disease. For most people, dentistry is something that only concerns their teeth. Something like bleeding gingivae may be seen as unimportant and so not trigger any alarm bells. Both of these incorrect assumptions are widespread and, frankly, dangerous to public health. It is the aim of the EFP through European Gum Health Day to change these misperceptions and to encourage people to reflect upon the importance of gingival health and how harmful gingivitis and periodontitis can be.

By celebrating European Gum Health Day, we provide our 30 affiliated national periodontology societies with the occasion, the framework and the resources to deliver a powerful message addressed to dentists and the public alike: healthy gingivae make our lives better by improving our well-being and overall health.

If we can successfully demonstrate to dental and health professionals that screening their patients’ gingivae allows them to prevent and possibly detect other serious chronic conditions, such as diabetes, we believe they will be more eager to incorporate periodontology into their daily practice. If we succeed in conveying to the public that gingival health is an integral part of oral health, they will demand that greater public attention be given to this issue and will pay more attention themselves.

What are some of the activities that the national periodontology societies involved in European Gum Health Day have planned?

Every EFP-affiliated society is free to organise its own activities according to its priorities. Resultantly, we have a very wide array of initiatives, some of which are aimed at patients and the general public and some at changing how general and specialist dentists perceive the role of periodontology.

Many affiliated societies have produced dedicated press releases and published special articles in scientific and mainstream publications. Many of them, such as the Israeli Society of Periodontology and Osseointegration and the Italian Society of Periodontology and Implantology, have even created amazing videos and animations for the day. Some societies have arranged for interviews on television and radio and in newspapers in celebration of European Gum Health Day, backed by an extensive social media campaign. Last, but certainly not least, a rich diversity of awareness initiatives have been launched in many countries, with free dental check-ups, informative leaflets and public events in universities and open public spaces being run and organised in countries such as Greece and Croatia.

How important is the role of the individual in maintaining good oral health, and what are some steps he or she can take to achieve this?

Personal commitment to oral health remains a key factor, but dental practitioners, hygienists and publications nevertheless have a role to play in keeping patients motivated and informed.

Maintaining good oral health habits is relatively easy and should already be part of one’s daily routine. It is essential to brush one’s teeth at least twice a day, and this activity should be supplemented by cleaning the spaces between the teeth where the toothbrush bristles cannot reach. The latter can be performed through the use of either dental floss or interdental brushes.

I believe that good gingival health is achieved most effectively when dental professionals engage and cooperate with their patients in this process. Thus, frequent check-ups and good, clear communication are essential.

How can gingival health impact one’s overall health?

There is significant scientific evidence that periodontal disease is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a range of other systemic health issues. Sometimes the exact relationship is unclear, but we are at a point where our knowledge of these complex interactions is continually improving. Certainly, it is safe to say that maintaining good gingival health may have a positive impact on overall health.

Regarding diabetes specifically, the Perio-Diabetes Workshop held by the EFP and the International Diabetes Federation in Madrid in Spain this past February reached a new evidence-based consensus: periodontitis sufferers have a higher chance of developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, and patients with diabetes and periodontitis find it more difficult to keep their blood sugar levels under control than do patients with diabetes but without periodontitis.

There is consistent evidence that periodontal therapy reduces blood sugar level in people with both conditions. Furthermore, people with diabetes have a greater risk of periodontal disease, which, if left untreated, can negatively affect metabolic control and increase the risk of complications, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease. However, periodontal therapy can have a positive impact on both their metabolic control and complications, so establishing and maintaining good gingival health is clearly an integral part of combating diabetes.

Thank you very much for the interview.

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