New Research Supports Assessing Risk, Preventive Treatment for Periodontal Disease

Monday, June 10, 2013

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) supports new research published online in the Journal of Dental Research confirming the need for careful risk assessment to determine which patients may benefit from additional treatment to prevent periodontal disease. Periodontal disease impacts over half of the U.S. adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The AAP recommends that all patients receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation once a year to effectively screen and assess risk for disease, and to guide preventive care.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. Common risk factors for periodontal disease include the presence of other chronic inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes, poor oral hygiene, smoking, age, and genetics.

In the study titled “Patient Stratification for Preventive Care in Dentistry,” researchers assessed a patient’s risk for periodontal disease to determine if visiting the dentist once or twice a year helped prevent long-term consequences of periodontal disease. Patients were classified as high-risk for periodontal disease if they had one or more of three commonly observed risk factors: smoking, diabetes or the interleukin-1 genotype. Patients were considered low-risk if they did not possess any of the three risk factors. Loss of teeth was assessed as the consequence of moderate to severe periodontal disease. Over 5,100 patients were evaluated over 16 years.

The findings indicate that individuals at a low risk for periodontal disease experience no significant difference in tooth loss rates whether they received one preventive dental visit or two. However, high-risk individuals saw better periodontal health outcomes when they visited the dentist twice a year, and the data suggest that those high risk individuals with more than a single risk factor may need more than twice yearly preventive visits. 

According to Nancy L. Newhouse, DDS, MS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology and a practicing periodontist in Independence, Missouri, the results underscore the importance of regular, preventive care. “An annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation includes a thorough assessment of periodontal health, including a detailed inventory of any risk factors for disease. A dental professional should examine your mouth once a year to identify existing periodontal disease as well as assess risk for future disease. For some patients, this once-a-year visit is sufficient. However, according to the study patients with increased risk for periodontal disease warrant additional preventive visits.” 

Dr. Newhouse believes that these findings may also help dental professionals provide smarter, more efficient care. “Given the prevalence of periodontal disease in this country, the findings support patients receiving personalized periodontal care catered to their specific risk profile or diagnosis.”