Proactive Patients Do Better in the Long Run
Study after study shows the connections between the health of the oral environment and the rest of the body. Yet, as a whole, dentistry referred more patients to the periodontist in the last 15 years of the last century than we have in the first 15 years of this century.
When patients are finally referred, there is greater disease severity and more tooth loss, which means greater systemic risk. Why? It appears that there is an economic motivation because of the way many dental insurance plans work. Dental insurance benefits have not increased to keep up with costs and many plans make it costly for the general dentist to refer to a specialist. This trend is also being seen with many other medical and dental specialties. The insurance industry is being shortsighted in its policies because this will ultimately increase their costs because of more severe problems down the road. It therefore is incumbent upon the patient to be more proactive about their care and request a referral to a specialist when they suspect it would be beneficial to them.
Sadly, a substantial portion of my new patients would have required less treatment had their referral occurred earlier. Bleeding of the gums when flossing, worsening gum recession, bad breath and loose teeth are usually signs of active gum disease that is not being effectively managed. Patients need not be timid to ask their doctor for a referral if they sense there is a problem.
I work closely with referring general dentists. We both appreciate our patient’s needs and our individual practice’s expertise. I am an expert in periodontal disease, implant placement, and pinhole surgical technique. I personally would refer my family only to an expert in all other dental fields.
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