Dentists and Hygienists- STOP CLEANING TEETH!

We are doing our patients a major disservice by continuing to refer to a therapeutic disease control program as a “cleaning”. By using that term we are under-rating the importance of the service and encouraging the patient to consider their disease as something to be not too concerned about. Nowhere in the dental codes 4355, 4341, 4342, 4910, will you find the word “cleaning“.

Gingivitis and bacteria

 Some practices use the phrase “deep scaling”. Where in the wide world of Ste. Apalonia (Patron Saint of Dentistry) did that misleading phrase come from? A scaling, which is a component of hygiene therapy, is either thorough (deep) or inadequate. I prefer to call the therapeutic disease control program Comprehensive (or Conservative) Periodontal TherapyCPT.
The American Dental Association reports now that 75% of the US population has some degree of Periodontal Disease, and still many dentists fail to bring it to their patients’ attention. You also need to ask yourself what patients really expect. When YOU go to a medical professional, don’t you expect to hear what is best for YOUR health? That is exactly what your patients expect.
When a patient leaves home for a dental appointment, he/she has brushed and flossed their teeth and in their mind their teeth are CLEAN! Why would they pay a registered health care professional to professionally “clean” their teeth when they have already done so.
In order to change our patients’ attitudes about dental hygiene we need to use the right language. It is a dental hygiene appointment, it is a hygiene therapy appointment, or supportive periodontal hygiene therapy. It is a Comprehensive (or Conservative) Periodontal Therapy CPT. It’s not just a “cleaning“. It is an important part of the patient’s health and healing and it’s essential to educate the patient on the oral health link with systemic health. Help your patients to value the hygiene appointment.
Ten years ago the concept of the oral-systemic connection was absolutely foreign to the healthcare community. Today, however, most people are aware of the obvious connection; the media are paying more and more attention, and the intellectual public is searching the web. It is our responsibility to spread the word- the correct word.

It is well documented that the same bacteria (primarily spirochetes) that harbor in the gums and are responsible for PD, are directly related to heart disease, strokes, lung disease, kidney failure, and premature underweight births. The bottom line is that EVERYONE must be agressive in the early discovery and treatment of PD- and it’s especially true for a systemically compromised person. A health history interview with every new patient (and “recall”) is essential.
Recent research has also shown a connection to Alzheimer’s Disease.