Dear Referring MD:
As a dental professional, one the best parts about treating patients is the smile you see on their face. With increased awareness about health and wellness, and today’s headlines filled with news about how to take better care of yourself, we are striving to live healthier lives and helping our patients to do the same. As dental professionals, we work with our patients to help our patients make positive decisions about oral health, to help achieve overall wellness.
Evidence suggests a possible link between periodontal diseases and other systemic conditions that can negatively affect a person’s overall wellness, such as diabetes, heart disease, and total body inflammation levels (CRP). Bacteria associated with periodontal diseases have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and preterm or low weight births. The bacteria travel through the body’s veins and arteries using them as a highway system to link to other parts of the body. Periodontal bacteria can also spread from the oral cavity to the rest of the body, including the lungs and can cause respiratory diseases associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the sixth leading cause of mortality in the United States.
No matter where bacteria travel in the body, the immune system will respond by sending white blood cells to battle the bacteria. These white blood cells release chemicals that create an inflammatory response. Inflammation can damage tissues. Scientists now understand that inflammation causes or complicates many diseases, including pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. For example, inflammation can damage tissues in the brain which can increase a patient’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Inflammation from gum disease has also been linked to arthritis. Many scientists believe that inflammation is responsible for the development of rheumatoid arthritis in some of the estimated 2.1 million people suffering from the condition. Today, the level of inflammation in your body can be evaluated with a C-reactive protein test from a blood sample.
As a periodontist, I am trained to help patients with the treatment and complications associated with periodontal diseases and oral medicine. If you have a patient with uncontrolled diabetes and significant inflammation, bleeding gums or recurring infections in their gums, it may be time to consider periodontal treatment or referral to a periodontist. In addition if you have a patient with high blood pressure or a history of cardiac problems that is suffering from bleeding gums and significant inflammation you may want to seek additional specialty care for that patient.
Please contact me for a copy of a helpful patient brochure called “Something to Smile About: Care of your Periodontal and Overall Health.” This brochure can help your patients understand the importance of oral health, and their overall health, which can in turn improve our clinical outcomes. In addition I am happy to review with you the referral guidelines for periodontal diseases if you think this would help your practice and patients.
I value our professional relationship and would like to work with you to help the oral health of our patients. I believe that by working together we will be able to successfully address your patients’ needs by achieving the smile they desire and helping them to lead longer, healthier, happier lives by making them aware of the oral/systemic link!
Dr. Aalam and Dr. Krivitsky