Addressing compliance in the periodontally involved patient

Start with one part patient relationship plus one part break down compliance barriers. Toss in some patient education and combine with follow-up. Sprinkle liberally with communication. Serve with a smile.

Periodontal disease continues to be prevalent in the United States. In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 47.2% of adults ages 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease.1 Every day dental hygienists try to help patients improve their oral health along with their systemic health. In November 2016, the American Heart Association stated that, based on recent research, periodontal disease is independently associated with arteriosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD).2 This was a breakthrough in the medical and dental communities. Before, we could only say there was a strong correlation between periodontal disease and heart disease, but now we can say it is a fact. Dental and medical professionals need to come together to help patients improve their oral and systemic health.

Dental hygienists face issues daily with patients regarding periodontal compliance for a multitude of reasons. Getting patients to comply with treatment recommendations is a multifaceted process. The importance of compliance must be communicated consistently by all dental team members, primary care physicians, specialists, and team members throughout the referral network.


To increase patient periodontal compliance, it may be helpful to contact your patients’ physicians and specialists to request assistance in supporting the cause for treatment of the patient’s periodontal disease. In my office, our doctor regularly seeks medical clearance and support for periodontal treatment from our patients’ physicians and our referral network. Unfortunately, most physicians and specialists outside our network respond with letters that leave much to be desired and contribute little to help improve our patients’ compliance. But within our referral network, we have found that patients will comply with the periodontal treatment that we recommend. Building rapport not only with our patients but with local physicians can help increase patient compliance.