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As President of the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), Prof. Dr Anton Sculean has announced his plans to raise awareness of the importance of periodontal health for those over 60 years of age. In the second part of an interview with Dental Tribune Online, Sculean spoke at length about the reasoning behind this, as well as other important shifts in dental treatment and prevention.
How was your first European Gum Health Day as EFP President?
It was a very successful campaign, I would say. The idea of European Gum Health Day is to inform the entire population of each participating country of the importance of maintaining healthy gingivae not just for oral health but for overall well-being and quality of life. These are the key messages that we wanted to communicate through the participating national periodontal societies, and I think we communicated them rather well.
This year’s European Gum Health Day was also the first edition to go global. By this, I mean that we had several national societies of periodontology from the Caribbean, South America, Colombia and Panama participating alongside almost all of the EFP’s affiliated national societies. It was great to see this commitment to spreading the message of “Health begins with healthy gums” adopted by these nations, and I hope that they will continue to participate in the future.
With the increase in popularity of patient-centred concepts such as motivational interviewing, do you see the role of the dental professional changing?
I think that’s a very important point to consider. We see more and more new treatment concepts being guided by a philosophy of actively involving the patient in the treatment process. If we actively involve the patient, his or her motivation to follow through with the treatment is likely to be higher and its success is thus more likely as well—without the cooperation and input of the patient, we can never achieve complete success.
In dentistry, there has been a shift away from dictating certain concepts to patients and towards involving them in the treatment process, working together to improve their oral health. This shift is a positive one, as it recognises the importance of putting patients in charge of maintaining their oral health.
At the recent EFP General Assembly, you mentioned that, though gingival health impacts the quality of life of individuals of all ages, it could particularly affect people over 60 years of age. Why do you think this is so?
This is one of my main priorities as the EFP President. Preventative care is a lifelong habit, of course, and gingival health brings not just oral health but also overall health, well-being and quality of life over a whole lifetime, particularly for those over 60 years of age. If one looks at demographic data regarding this issue, one can see that the world’s population is continuing to grow older and older. Life expectancy is generally increasing, and many people who are over 60 are still in excellent general health. They take action to maintain their well-being and want to extend this for as long as possible. That is why I started with this programme—if one considers that the number of people worldwide who are over 60 is currently less than one billion, but that the number is predicted to rise to 2.1 billion by 2050, it’s clear that we need to take immediate action to target this group.
What I want to achieve through this action is to reposition this age group as one that can maintain gingival health. I want to get away from focusing on disease and instead emphasise how important maintaining and preserving their health is. I have labelled this concept “oral fitness”. By this, I mean that we shouldn’t just focus on the general fitness of our bodies, but instead incorporate the gingivae and the oral cavity into our understanding of what fitness can be.
Regarding some of the EFP’s other programmes, like those centred on the interaction between gingival health and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and so on, they have already been established and are benefitting those individuals who suffer from, or are at risk for, these conditions. However, for the bulk of the population who doesn’t have one of these conditions, maintaining their oral fitness can really benefit quality of life.
The EFP has a duty to promote gingival health, oral health and the treatment of periodontal disease. Personally, I would prefer not to have this disease in the first place and to ensure a high quality of life and high level of oral fitness for as long as possible.
Editorial note: The first part of this interview appeared online on Thursday, 14 June 2018.
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