Helpful points to consider when diagnosing or spotting the signs of periodontal disease in patients
Photo credit: Getty images
Having gaps, bleeding gums and bad breath is something patients wish to avoid and when there is a failure to diagnose and manage their disease, patients often look to blame their dentist.
In terms of civil claims against UK dentists, the failure to diagnose and manage periodontal disease ranks as one of the most common allegations made against general dental practitioners.
With our increasing awareness of the definitive links between smoking and diabetes as risk factors for periodontal disease, dentists are expected to highlight and record these risks to patients in their care.
Diagnosing and classifying periodontal disease has changed. Dentists and their teams must understand and implement these concepts of staging and grading into their daily clinical practice. There will come a point in time when all patients would be expected to have had their periodontal health assessed using the new classification, and it may be considered a breach of a dentist duty not to have done so if the patient subsequently turns out to have had periodontal disease undiagnosed or poorly managed. Periodontal disease should not be a mystery to patients or dentists and the BDJ remains a pre-eminent source of information for this.
Once a patient is diagnosed with periodontal disease, they are in effect a periodontal disease patient for life. It is up to them, with guidance and support from dentist, hygienist and other team members, to carry out effective daily home cleaning. Behaviour change is an important part of managing these patients including refraining from smoking or eating sugary foods. Ultimately, it is up to the patient to attend appointments with their dentist. If they do not comply, or decide to disengage with the dentist or practice, good record keeping will always support the dentist.
Knowing when to refer periodontal patients is a key element of a dentist role, and whilst there may not always be specialist or tertiary referral services around, the dentist needs to have this discussion with the patient when it is appropriate to do so.
Learn more about Periodontal disease at our upcoming seminar, "Periodontal disease management now and in the future."
The British Society of Periodontology have excellent resources and articles have been published in the BDJ on classification.
BDA Indemnity covers you for defence costs regarding clinical negligence claims, including cover for legal and experts' fees. Find out more and get an indicative quote today.
Senior dento-legal Advisor
Len is the BDA’s senior dento-legal advisor,
a general dental practitioner, foundation trainer and practice owner
testing the NHS prototypes. He has 21 years’ experience as a dento-legal
advisor supporting dentists with complaints, clinical and regulatory
issues, and clinical negligence claims.