Communication and understanding of gingival disease

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  Posted by: Dental Design      25th January 2024

Gingival disease is thought to affect 50-90% of adults to some degree. Gingival inflammation has also been reported in as many as 46% of 8-year-olds, 60% of 12-year-olds and 52% of 15-year-olds – with bleeding on probing evident in approximately 40% of 15-year-olds.[i] Irreversible periodontitis is estimated to impact more than half of the UK population at some point during their lives, though this is thought to be an underestimation.

The most common risk factors attributed to gingival disease include plaque build-up, tobacco (smoking or chewing) and alcohol consumption, with several systemic disorders increasingly playing a role too such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.[ii]

Several sources have described periodontal disease as an epidemic among the global population, as it has become the 12th most prevalent pathology around the world.[iii] Though incidence of periodontal disease is expected to continue rising in the near future, the greatest burden is estimated to disproportionately affect the older adult population.[iv] From an economic perspective, it was calculated that periodontal disease led to an aggregate cost for healthcare sectors of €2.52 billion (£2.1 billion) across Europe in 2018.[v

Awareness and understanding

Given the prevalence of gingivitis and the seemingly wide-spread information that can be accessed online, it may come as a surprise to learn that patient understanding of the disease is not very high. A 2023 survey[vi] of just over 200 patients found that, though 74% thought gingival health was very important, only half of those with gingivitis were worried about it and most people didn’t realise they had any periodontal issues. The same research recorded that just 50% of participants associated gum disease with poor oral health and less than 20% were aware of its association with systemic health conditions.

If patients are not fully aware of their condition, or if they don’t completely understand what their oral health status means for their current and future wellbeing, it is very difficult to motivate changes in their behaviour. In the profession, we are constantly talking about educating patients and giving them information about their oral health. But the information alone is not enough. How this is communicated and how it is received makes an enormous difference to the patient.

Communication techniques

This is why communication skills and techniques are so important within the dental practice. Professionals are responsible for informing the patient about their health condition and the treatment options available to them, presenting the information in a way that the patient will really understand. Not only is this essential for high-quality consent, but it will also impact the patient’s compliance with professional recommendations.

It is difficult to determine how well a patient has really understood the information provided within an appointment. Some professionals might ask their patients to repeat back the key details to ensure that they have retained the information, but this can be tricky to do without them feeling patronised, despite the clinician’s best intentions. Other dental teams may provide a summary of the discussion that was had in the practice for a patient take home. This could also incorporate an outline of treatment recommendations to be read and digested in their own time. Even in these circumstances, it is still possible that the patient doesn’t reread the information at home, or written instructions may not be the most useful or practical for them.

Getting animated

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of visual communication aids when discussing oral health status and treatment options with patients. In particular, animations and videos have been found to significantly improve patient understanding of health and medical information.[vii] This was recorded regardless of patient age or gender, demonstrating the benefit of animations for communicating treatment need and describing procedures to all patients in the dental practice.

As such, it is beneficial for clinicians to introduce software that provides access to videos that can aid the patient education and communication process. Chairsyde is a state-of-the-art consultation platform designed for dentists. It offers a comprehensive library of animations that not only enhances patient understanding of their current oral health condition, but also clearly explains treatment options – including all possible benefits, risks and limitations. The platform is easy to use, automatically featuring associated topics on each treatment page for quick and simple navigation according to the patient conversation. With a better understanding of gingival disease and the possible treatment procedures, patients are empowered to participate in the decision-making process for more engaged oral health.

Gingival disease remains a prevalent issue in the UK – and around the world. Half the battle for dental professionals is educating patients and ensuring that they really understand what the disease means for their wellbeing. Innovative communication tools can go a long way to elevating patient understanding in this and many other clinical areas.

For more information, or to book a demo, please visit

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Loven Ganeswaran – CEO and founder Chairsyde. Helping dentists around the world empower their patients to make better decisions about their health.

[i] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Gingivitis and periodontitis. How common is it? Revised July 2023. [Accessed November 2023]

[ii] Department of Health & Social Care. Office for Health Improvement & Disparities. Guidance. Chapter 5: periodontal diseases. November 2021. [Accessed November 2023]

[iii] Nocini, Riccardo & Lippi, Giuseppe & Mattiuzzi, Camilla. (2020). Periodontal disease: the portrait of an epidemic. 4. 10-10. 10.21037/jphe.2020.03.01.

[iv] Elamin A, Ansah JP. Projecting the burden of dental caries and periodontal diseases among the adult population in the United Kingdom using a multi-state population model. Front Public Health. 2023 Sep 7;11:1190197. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1190197. PMID: 37744497; PMCID: PMC10513470.

[v] Botelho, J, Machado, V, Leira, Y, Proença, L, Chambrone, L, Mendes, JJ. Economic burden of periodontitis in the United States of America and Europe: An updated estimation. J Periodontol. 2022; 93: 373–379.

[vi] Rana, H., Warnes, B., Davies, M. et al. Patient-reported understanding and dentist-reported management of periodontal diseases – a survey: do you know what gum disease is?. Br Dent J 235, 127–131 (2023).

[vii] Feeley, Thomas & Keller, Maria & Kayler, Liise. (2022). Using Animated Videos to Increase Patient Knowledge: A Meta-Analytic Review. Health Education & Behavior. 50. 109019812211167. 10.1177/10901981221116791.

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