Periodontists and family doctors must collaborate to treat their patients’ overall health, says new study

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Close collaboration between family doctors and periodontists and other oral health professionals is necessary for the effective prevention, early detection and management of widespread systemic health conditions, affecting millions of patients everywhere.

That is one of the main conclusions of a new paper published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

This consensus report, authored by 18 global leading experts in periodontology and family medicine, updates and improves the scientific evidence that gum disease, in particular periodontitis or chronic inflammation of gums, is independently associated with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, respiratory diseases, sleep apnoea, and COVID-19 complications.

The document advocates for family doctors and oral healthcare professionals to work together in preventing, detecting and treating these major systemic health issues, in exchanging information and mutually referring their patients, and in promoting healthy lifestyles among them. There is consensus in considering gum health-related input as essential for family physicians to correctly manage their patients’ overall health.

For example, it is recommended that periodontists and family doctors implement effective strategies for early detection of gum disease in primary healthcare centres, and of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in dental practices. General practitioners are encouraged to seek information about the periodontal health of their patients, and oral health professionals about their cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors.

“The current split between dental health professionals on one side, and systemic disease professionals on the other makes no sense,” paper co-author Shlomo Vinker said.

“We should strive for greater integration and better sharing of information. More collaboration on screening, prevention, and referrals would clearly benefit our patients and the public health.”

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