Periodontal disease and Dental Neglect
Periodontal disease is a serious oral infection which invades the soft gum tissue surrounding teeth and advances to destroy the bone and ligaments which anchor the teeth in the oral cavity. Because of the destruction of these supporting structures, teeth loosen and are eventually lost. Periodontitis, as this disease process is called, is related to hygiene and genetic or other predisposing factors, but it is easily prevented by regular check-ups and cleanings. The check-ups are important because the early signs of this disease are not always visible except by means of a proper series of x-rays and proper clinical examination of gum pocket depths and other indicators. Established protocols for dental check-ups are part of ordinary care given to every dental patient during regular prophylaxis (teeth cleaning) appointments. If undetected clinically, however, the symptoms of the disease are usually not manifest until too late.
Unfortunately, some dental patients see their dentists at regular check-up appointments, have teeth cleanings, but proper diagnostics are not followed or signs of the disease overlooked. The usual course of neglect in such cases is that even though the patient has gone to her dentist routinely for check-ups and had regular prophylaxis, she discovers one or more of her teeth are loose. If the disease has advanced far enough, dentition will be lost or at risk of loss. Expensive treatment and therapy then follows.
The standards of care for periodontal assessment are fairly well established in dentistry. When they are not met, the patient may have a significant malpractice case.