Bright sunshine was streaming through the windows of Adirondack Periodontics, PLLC office on Route 22 south of Plattsburgh, NY when Strictly Business visited.
Dr. Gordon Davis, DMD, DMSc and his staff welcome patients in a caring, professional atmosphere, ready to evaluate, treat and educate them on their path to dental health. Studies indicate that periodontitis, an inflammatory disease characterized by loss of connective tissue between teeth and gums, could increase risk factors for heart attack, stroke and other serious conditions. There is an increasing focus on the interconnectedness of dental health on a person’s overall health since close to fifty percent of Americans will suffer from varying degrees of severity of the disease. Davis and his staff are taking the lead and educating patients on the importance of gum care routines in what is now an important component in the doctor-patient dialogue.
Adirondack Periodontics PLLC
Originally from Florida, Gordon Davis, completed his pre- and post- doctoral training at Harvard University. It was there that he met Vermont periodontist, Paul Levi, who became an important mentor, encouraging Davis to pursue this unique branch of dentistry and inviting him to join his practice in Burlington. “I worked there from 1998 to 2007, when I purchased the practice, Adirondack Periodontics PLLC, in Plattsburgh,” Davis explained. “We moved to our current location on Healey Avenue in November of 2013.” Davis called the field of periodontics, with its combination of academic and surgical components, a perfect fit for his interests and aptitudes.
“Every patient comes to us with a different dental IQ. Our job is to help them understand the relationship between dental disease and their medical health,” said Davis. “We believe that this understanding is critical to making good health care choices and developing beneficial lifestyle habits.” Working alongside Davis two days per week is his wife, Sarah, an RN and a registered dental hygienist. “Sarah worked in the Emergency Room at University of Vermont Hospital for many years. We hope she never needs to use the skills she acquired there, but it is comforting to know that she has such abilities,” said Davis. “With her nursing background, she is able to better help our patients understand the relationship between their medical and dental health.”
“Our patients commonly see us for either periodontal disease or the complications arising from tooth loss,” explained Davis. His practice works on a nearly one hundred percent referral rate. The most common reasons for referrals would be to replace missing teeth using dental implants, extractions to remove hopelessly damaged teeth, bone grafting to repair defects in hard tissues, sinus elevation to create appropriate sites for dental implant placement, and soft tissue grafting. “A significant part of our day is spent treating periodontitis, predominantly with an Nd:YAG laser. LANAP (Laser Ablative New Attachment Procedure) provides patients with an alternative to tradi- tional surgical therapy. And dental implants provide them with very predictable long term replacement solutions.”
Many dental/periodontal conditions are preventable. “It must be understood that genetics plays a role in dental diseases, however, the effects can be blunted by taking some relatively simple precautions and developing some good home care habits,” explained Davis. While the standard two cleanings per year may be sufficient for many patients, those with periodontitis may require an increased frequency in order to maintain health.
There is absolutely no doubt that tobacco use is a factor in periodontitis and other dental diseases. “The evidence as reported by numerous double-blind, randomized clinical trials is irrefutable,” Davis emphasized. “The trick and the challenge is helping patients give up tobacco. “Diabetes is also a major factor in the aggressiveness of periodontitis, as are several other medical conditions.”
Patient as Co-therapist
There was a time not so long ago when communication between doctors and their patients was one-way. Davis sees the evolution of doctor-patient communication as a necessity for a successful outcome. Available treatments have advantages and complications. There may not be a best treatment for all individuals, only a better choice for a particular patient. “Communication of expected treatment outcomes becomes important if a patient is to choose between a number of complex therapeutic modalities. We try to follow a philosophy of shared decision making where the patient becomes an important health care team member, a “co-therapist,” Davis emphasized. For example, LANAP is a fairly predictable, highly effective, non-surgical method for treating periodontal disease. There is, however, a very rigid protocol that must be followed in order to achieve the desired treatment outcome. Not all patients can follow these guidelines so, while LANAP might be suggested, a patient might choose a different approach.
After treatment has been completed, Davis will see a patient for a reevaluation examination. He sees this visit as critical to patient care. “Re-evaluation gives us the ability to assess the outcome of treatment, continue the education process and critique our methods and results,” explained Davis. “More importantly, it is a relaxed time for discussion with our patients. Together we can look back at where we started and hopefully reflect positively on the gains we have made together.” It can be a time of great satisfaction for both the patient and clinician if together they have achieved a higher level of health, function and aesthetics. Larger cases can take years to complete and can be difficult even for the most dedicated patient. They can also be the most rewarding.”
Adirondack Periodontics offers a personable and professional staff which, in addition to Davis’ wife Sarah, includes hygienists Tracy Adams and Terry Treillor. “They are amazing clinicians who are dedicated to keeping patients healthy through education and maintenance visits.” said Davis. “I am very lucky to have an exceptionally dedicated and professional staff to help me. Leslie Rasnake and Debra Cody at our front desk are like air traffic controllers. They keep patients and the staff organized and efficient. Lynnette Keswick and Amanda Thew are my surgical assistants and combine the highest level of compassion and professionalism.”
Davis believes that as we continue to study the effects of chronic diseases that create inflammation, like periodontitis, a better understanding will emerge regarding the importance of early and aggressive intervention. He believes that as our understanding of periodontal disease improves we will also begin to see a more focused approach to reconstruction/regeneration of the tissues damaged by the condition, which will only benefit the patient going forward. “One of the things I love about my job is the interaction I have with patients on so many aspects of their medical health. It can seem like such a small thing, rehabilitating someone’s oral condition, yet the impact on someone’s quality of life can be staggering, affecting important elements in their overall health like nutrition, speech and self-esteem.”
HEALTHY HABITS FOR IMPROVING ORAL HEALTH
1. See your dentist for regular check ups and professional hygiene at the interval he or she recommends. Prevention is the key to avoiding invasive and costly dental problems.
2. Brush your teeth after meals to help remove food debris and plaque trapped between your teeth.
3. Floss at least once daily to remove food particles and plaque between teeth and along the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
4. Age, smoking, diet and genetics can a ect your risk. Discuss your risk with your dentist.
5. Avoid crunching and sipping. Crunching on ice, popcorn kernels and other hard items creates undue stress on the teeth and can lead to fracture. Sipping sugary or acidic drinks during the day can foster tooth decay. Consider using crushed ice in drinks and crunching on baby carrots. Sip soda through a straw positioned toward the back of the mouth.
6. Avoid using teeth as tools. This creates stresses that can lead to chipping, cracking and weakening of the teeth.
7. Grinding or clenching your teeth can create wear or fractures. Your dentist may recommend a bite guard to protect your teeth and discuss methods for reducing or eliminating the habit.
8. Avoid using a hard bristled brush as this can result in gum recession. Additionally, change your manual toothbrush monthly and your electric brush head quarterly.
9. Be sure to get an oral cancer screening at each dental visit.