Tackling the global burden of periodontal disease

09 May 2018 Congress
Prof. Marco Ferrari portrait

Prof Lijian Jin, Modern Dental Laboratory Professor in Clinical Dental Science and Professor of Periodontology in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Hong Kong, will chair a symposium on periodontal health for a second consecutive year as part of the FDI Global Periodontal Health Project.

You are the Chair of FDI’s Global Periodontal Health Project (GPHP) Task Team. In your own words, what’s the importance of the work carried out by this group of experts?

Periodontal (gum) disease is a major global health burden. Severe periodontitis is the primary cause of tooth loss and edentulism in adults and it profoundly affects oral health and its functions. Periodontal disease is also closely linked to common noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes. This serious disease and its sequelae account for huge healthcare costs and socio-economic impacts. Yet, global awareness of periodontal health remains low.

FDI timely set up the Global Periodontal Health Project (GPHP) Task Team to address the global burden of periodontal disease, develop key strategies to tackle the problems, and advocate better oral/periodontal health and general health. Our Task Team is highly committed to carrying out the work and provides possible solutions and calls for global action to promote periodontal health – both among healthcare professionals and public communities. Our work also enhances the integration of oral/periodontal healthcare into all health policies. We believe that strong teamwork and global collaboration are essential for the success of this project.

GPHP recently produced two publications, a white paper and practical guide to address the burden of periodontal disease. What is the significance of these resources to dental practitioners?

We are very pleased to have produced these two important publications. The Task Team successfully kicked off the project at the 2017 FDI World Oral Health Forum and the proceedings from the Forum set the framework for the White Paper. It consists of a comprehensive summary of 1) the important issues on the global prevalence and socio-economic impacts of periodontal disease, 2) updated knowledge of its aetiopathogenesis, proactive prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatments, 3) the main problems and key challenges in tackling the global burden of this disease, and 4) an action plan for oral health professionals, policymakers, and other actors to fulfil our common mission of ‘leading the world to optimal oral health’.

The Practical Guide is very useful for National Dental Associations and oral healthcare professionals to organize, undertake and assess various advocacy campaigns. The aim is to achieve effective implementation of oral health policies to successfully tackle the global burden of periodontal disease and promote periodontal health.

In Buenos Aires, you will discuss the challenges facing periodontal health and the strategies to address them. Can you give a brief overview of what these are?

The current challenges of oral/periodontal healthcare worldwide include generally low awareness of periodontal disease in the public, partly due to its relatively ‘silent’ pathological profile. Indeed, many patients do not seek periodontal care until serious problems occur. There is also inadequate awareness of periodontal healthcare and even negligence among healthcare professionals, which has been reflected on the recent survey results conducted among National Dental Associations by FDI.

Various socio-economic barriers also significantly account for global periodontal health inequality within and between countries, and thereby affect disease prevention and effective periodontal care. Obviously, the increasing rate of the aging population in the world has also become a great challenge and socio-economic burden on health professionals, governments and the public at large.

The key strategies to address this urgent issue are to proactively advocate global awareness of oral/periodontal health; enhance prevention, early diagnosis (e.g. gingivitis), and effective management of the disease; and reinforce basic and professional dental/medical education.

How will this year’s symposium on periodontal health be different than the one from last year?

At the forthcoming World Dental Congress in Buenos Aires, our Task Team will organize the GPHP Symposium. The updated periodontal science, care strategy and clinical approaches will be discussed, including the new classification of periodontal/peri-implant diseases and evidence-based best practices of non-surgical/surgical periodontal therapies.

The main work from our Task Team will be shared with the participants through an interactive approach, such as a report on the survey of periodontal health among National Dental Associations, highlights from the White Paper, and elaboration of the action plan and usage of the practical toolkits. In addition, our Task Team will undertake two ‘Meet-the-Expert’ sessions to present the newly developed Chairside Guide for oral health professionals to further promote primary and secondary prevention of periodontal disease as well as enhance effective management of patients in daily practice.

Following the symposium in Buenos Aires, what is next for GPHP?

GPHP aims to reduce the burden of periodontal disease in humans while raising awareness of oral/periodontal health. This can be done through the engagement and global teamwork of oral and other healthcare professionals, educators, policymakers and the public at large.

As part of the project, the Task Team will present an FDI Policy Statement to further advocate global periodontal health and prioritize it at the national level. This will be done through proactive health promotion and disease prevention among professional and public communities, as well as integration of oral/periodontal health into health policies to tackle NCDs through the common risk factor approach. This policy statement will make recommendations and provide guidelines to facilitate the implementation of coordinated global action to achieve the goal of this mission-driven project.

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