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Severe Gum Disease is a Public Health Problem

Iain Chapple – Birmingham University (UK)

We are unequivocal about this. Severe periodontitis is a significant public health problem. And the latest data tells us that over 11 percent of the world population suffer from Severe Periodontitis.

So it’s the sixth most prevalent disease of humans! Periodontitis itself is probably the most prevalent but Severe Periodontitis is the sixth most prevalent disease in humans.

So it’s not only important from the point of view of tooth retention, quality of life, self-esteem etc., but also it’s that form of disease that is significantly and independently associated with the other systemic diseases of aging, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc.

So, Severe Periodontitis, we are fairly unequivocal about, is a public health problem from the point of view of tooth retention and oral health. But it is also a public health concern in terms of general health and longevity.

And the profession have to convince the public health sector that Severe Periodontitis is a significant public health problem. We shouldn’t need to do it as the World Health Organization have identified this and flagged it up. But there seems to be some resistance or some negativity in some public health circles to Severe Periodontitis being a public health problem.

We have to be absolutely clear it is a public health problem. Not just from an oral health standpoint, that’s what we are most interested in, but also from a general health standpoint.

To what extent should we be investing resource, time and energy in trying to manage Periodontitis? And so we have some fairly clear agreement that the majority of patients will have some degree of mild localised gingival inflammation in their mouths that does not necessarily represent a public health concern. In fact, it probably doesn’t.

What represents a public health concern is where there is more widespread and significant gingivitis because that is, if you like, part of the same pathway that leads to Periodontitis.

Now with Periodontitis, there are mild forms of the disease. Again, one could argue that perhaps isn’t a major public health concern.

But the severe disease is. Because the severe disease leads to tooth loss. It’s what leads to impact on quality of life, on the ability to eat, so on nutrition, on bad breath and on speech and a whole host of other issues on patients’ self-esteem.

[Credit: The main video segment was provided by EFP, the European Federation of Periodontology]