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prevention International magazine for oral health No. 1, 2017

opinion | a need for prevention the appropriate evidence-based care that works. A variety of approaches have been proposed — without a grain of scientific evidence — that cater to specific mindsets and beliefs of the population. In this whirlwind of ad- vertisement, the health information is lost and many people find it difficult to differentiate between what works and what does not. Our Perio Focus paper provides a series of priorities on how to address some of the barriers. Consider, for ex- ample, the belief that self-medication with a variety of aids will manage the disease. You really need to read the specific suggestions that have been endorsed by so many periodontal so- cieties around the world, as our col- leagues tell us that these are real is- sues. Of course, different countries are at different levels regarding gingival health knowledge, care and policy. However, even in the most advanced countries, considerable parts of the population continue to have a high burden of disease and have difficulty accessing health information and pro- fessional oral care services. How can we empower and educate pa- tients to reduce their risk of developing What are the reasons for this? There are several. For example, the early stages of periodontal disease are often symptomless, and a significant number of affected patients thus do not seek professional care. The rela- tively silent nature of the early stages of the disease, combined with low pub- lic awareness of gingival health, leads to many patients seeking symptom-based care only for advanced disease. Also, we know that there is an as- sociation between low socio-economic status and higher prevalence of peri- odontitis. Recent insights into socio- economic inequalities in health show that the most important aspect is the effect of social status on health. So- cial background heavily influences the behaviour of individuals, and health- promoting behaviours become more difficult to sustain further down the social ladder. This is an enormous challenge for societies and health care systems. gingivitis or periodontitis? That is indeed a key challenge. Our global call to action aims to enhance public awareness of the early signs of periodontitis. We want to inform patients and the public at large that periodontitis can be effectively managed and that it is more cost-effective to conduct treatment in the early stages of disease. For that, we need to address the misunderstand- ing that periodontitis can be effectively managed by self-care or self-medica- tion. Besides, we want to enhance pub- lic and professional awareness of the interdependence of periodontal health and general health. For that, we have to emphasise the need to address com- mon risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, for both periodontitis and other chronic diseases. That is why we need public health campaigns tailored to susceptible groups, such as pregnant women and diabetics — and we need them urgently. september 2017 11

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