Perio & Caries Campaign Reaches Beyond the Dental Community

Dentistry Today


In partnership with Colgate, the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) Perio & Caries awareness project has launched five evidence-based recommendation brochures spotlighting the connections between periodontal disease and dental caries that target different audiences:

  • The oral-healthcare team
  • Non-dental health professionals
  • Researchers
  • Policymakers
  • The public

All of the material is based on the findings of Perio Workshop 2016, organized by the EFP and the European Organization for Caries Research. The event produced four consensus reports and 10 supporting papers.

“These reports are very heavyweight, with in-depth specialist detail and understandable overlap between the reports from the four working groups,” said Nicola West, BDS, PhD, professor of periodontology and head of restorative dentistry and the Clinical Trials Unit at the Bristol Dental School, University of Bristol, who prepared the brochures.

West reviewed all of the papers to compile a single 36-page report, “The Boundaries Between Caries and Gum Disease,” that explained their main findings. This report then became the basis of the five recommendation brochures.

“It was a question of taking all these findings and focusing them in ways suitable for different audiences: the oral-healthcare team, non-dental health professionals, the public, researchers, policymakers,” said West.

Each document makes recommendations relating specifically to periodontal disease, to caries, and to both diseases. They also all have a common introductory infographic emphasizing that gum disease and caries are both nearly always preventable. Each brochure presents six facts: 

  • Gum disease (periodontitis) and tooth decay (caries) continue to be major public health problems worldwide.
  • Untreated caries and periodontitis may have severe consequences and lead to tooth loss, poor nutritional status, compromised speech, and reduced quality of life.
  • One person in three is affected by caries.
  • Severe periodontitis is the sixth most common disease globally.
  • Severe periodontitis affects 10% of the global population, or 743 million people.
  • Severe periodontitis is a leading cause of tooth loss in the adult population. 

“For the public, we needed clear, unambiguous statements. Not too many, and they must be easy to understand and remember. So, simple messages like ‘Bleeding gums are not normal. Dental professionals should be consulted immediately’ are very good public messages,” said West.

The messages can be more complex for policymakers, but they need to be presented so they can be understood very quickly, West said. For example, the brochure says that governments should include prevention and the development of individually tailored oral-care plans for their country’s reimbursement system and that they should develop strategies to address oral-health inequalities in areas of high socioeconomic need.

The recommendations for professional audiences are more detailed and scientific, though not at the expense of clarity. For example, oral-healthcare professionals are given a clear list of preventive measures and treatment strategies for caries and periodontal diseases that are effective at all ages. 

Non-dentistry health professionals are informed about the nature of the two diseases and reminded that unhealthy gums can be associated with other general health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and that the mouth is a vital part of the body, not a separate organ.

Researchers are provided with an extensive list of areas for future investigation, of each disease, and of the interactions between periodontal diseases and caries. Highlighted areas include studies to assess the role of genetics in caries and periodontal disease initiation and/or progression and epidemiological surveillance of caries, periodontal diseases, tooth loss, and oral-health-related quality of life in older people. 

“I am delighted with the new guidelines and feel very privileged to have been part of this brilliant international project,” West said. “Please read and implement the guidelines so that we can keep our teeth and improve the quality of life for millions of people worldwide.”

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