A key EFP event for Gum Health Day 2020 on 12 May was a live online educational session on the Instagram social-media platform in which key messages on gum health were put across to an audience of dental professionals and patients.
The 15-minute Instagram Live session featured Gum Health Day 2020 co-ordinator Andreas Stavropoulos in conversation with Reena Wadia, a British periodontist and member of the EFP communications team. About 650 people viewed the session either live on in the 24 hours it was available on Instagram.
Prof Stavropoulos started by describing the history of Gum Health Day, how it began six years ago as an initiative of the Spanish Society of Periodontology and Osteointegration (SEPA) called the European Day of Periodontology. Over the following years, the 12 May awareness day evolved into European Gum Health Day and later Gum Health Day, as more national societies of periodontology from around the world – including some that are not members of the EFP – joined in.
“The main aim is to reach out to the public, to create awareness that the health of the gums is important for the health of the mouth and for quality of life and also the implications for general health,” he told viewers. “And the other part is to create not only awareness in the public but also in institutions.”
Asked by Dr Wadia to explain this year’s Gum Health Day slogan of “Say NO to bleeding gums”, Prof Stavropoulos said that in previous years slogans had tended to “very motivational, with a positive tone”, but that he wanted something that “people can relate to – and bleeding gums everyone has experienced at one time in their life.”
Confirming the relevance of this year’s message that bleeding gums are not normal and are usually a sign of gum disease, Dr Wadia noted: “Some of my patients sometimes think it’s normal that gums are bleeding.”
Spread the word
Taking up these theme, the Gum Health Day 2020 co-ordinator said: “As an individual dentist one can spread the word, we can inform patients that gum health is important and what are the implications of not taking care of your gums for your mouth, for your teeth, for your quality of life, for your systemic health.”
He noted that in previous years, activities for the awareness day had focused on a physical presence – handing out materials in public places, free periodontal examinations at clinics – that has been impossible this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, Gum Health Day 2020 has been a largely digital affair. But that does not diminish its potential effectiveness and Prof Stavropoulos highlighted the power of the “ripple effect via social media”.
He answered questions from patients, such as why it is important to brush the gums as well as the teeth, and emphasised how bleeding gums may be a sign of periodontitis – “if you don’t take care of the condition, at some point you are going to lose some teeth. That has implications directly on your quality of life.”
He noted that self-care may not be enough to solve the problem of bleeding gums, “so if you see blood coming out from your mouth when you brush your teeth, you have to go and visit your dentist, when conditions allow.”
Finally, Dr Wadia noted that bleeding gums are “like an alarm bell in your mouth, saying ‘Look here, I need some attention’.”