One of the most challenging aspects of gum disease is not in treating it; instead it’s how to talk to dental patients about their condition. This is especially true when patients, who come every six months for regular cleanings, suddenly present with some level of gum disease. Most people expect that regular cleanings eliminate the likelihood of ever getting gum disease, which makes this conversation all the more difficult.
In most cases, patients start showing signs of the onset of gum disease in the form of greater pocket depths and increased amounts of sub-gingival calculus. Most hygiene teams monitor patients for a visit or two in hopes that improved home care will stabilize the situation. When patients do not show improvement and the condition develops into localized or full-quadrant gum disease, it’s important to first review the progression with patients.
Remind them that you have been monitoring the situation and working with them to improve home care, but now the condition has reached a point where more proactive treatment is needed. Do not shy away from using the term gum disease. Patients understand this and it builds far greater value than confusing phraseology such as deep pockets or perio.
Next, explain to the patient how gum disease treatment differs from a regular cleaning, namely that you are removing harmful bacteria from places they cannot reach with a toothbrush and floss. Without this treatment, the disease will progress.
Also, pat the patients on the back by telling them that the disease was detected at an early stage thanks to their commitment to regular visits. This same commitment will be needed to keep the disease at bay after treatment is completed.
It’s never easy to discuss the onset of gum with patients who come regularly. However, by addressing the situation effectively, you will successfully guide patients to schedule for much needed treatment.