May 11, 2021
by Gabriele Maycher, CEO, GEM Dental Experts Inc. BSc, PID, dip DH, RDH
When it comes to percent bleeding on probing, I challenge your team to see how low you can go. These strategies will help you develop and optimize treatment protocols.
If you haven’t integrated a zero percent Bleeding on Probing treatment goal for your practice, it’s time. We need to change the narrative with our patients by explaining that oral inflammation is the gateway to systemic inflammation and a plethora of associated diseases, so any bleeding is too much bleeding. The real question is, “Is zero percent bleeding a realistic expectation for our patients? And furthermore, is it possible to achieve?” Yes and yes! And here’s how we’ll do it.
HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT?
The literature tells us that we need to set “realistic” client-centered goals that are “measurable” in the treatment planning of our patients. I agree with the sentiment, but the word “realistic” is simply too subjective, particularly when you consider that clinicians in your practice have vastly different treatment philosophies, levels of experience, education, and training. We need a better way to define “realistic”.
In my years as a practising hygienist and consultant, I have found that “realistic” goals must be measurable, but just as important, they need to be formally integrated into your practice philosophy and treatment protocols. We can get to zero Bleeding on Probing, but you must decide as a practice team that it is a necessary endeavour and make the necessary shift in staff training, treatment protocols, and client education to affect change.
I’m a sucker for metrics, so it’s no surprise that I have always maintained a laser focus on Bleeding on Probing (BOP) scores. Scores don’t lie – they are undeniably measurable. And my practices have used these scores as a benchmark for treatment, slowly but surely moving many clients to zero percent BOP. Why do I encourage you and your team to wholeheartedly embrace this scoring system? Because it checks all the boxes for implementing “realistic” and “measurable” practice goals.
DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT
What does the new global 2018 AAP Periodontal Classification have to say about BOP Scores?
Clinically you can detect gingivitis earlier with BOP scores vs. visual signs of inflammation (redness and swelling), allowing you to integrate treatment strategies sooner.1
In addition, we have moved past the “continuous progression theory” of the 80s where we believed that if you had bleeding, you were at risk for future clinical attachment loss, and or if you had gingivitis, it would inevitably progress to periodontitis. However, studies have shown that “sites with an incidence of BOP at 4 of 4 visits have a 30% chance of attachment loss.”3 So, at minimum, we should be spot probing those bleeding sites at every maintenance appointment rather than annually. As for progression, even though bleeding may not be an indicator, we do know that the absence of bleeding is a criterion for stability. Bleeding = Possible Progression. No Bleeding = No Progression, according to the literature. The bottom line: We want zero percent BOP.
Because periodontitis is a disease that is only managed and never cured, we know that periodontitis patients can have periods of inactivity and stability or enter periods of exacerbation and disease activity (some sites progressing more rapidly than others, random, and multiple burst patterns) throughout their lifetime. This puts stable periodontitis patient at higher risk for recurrent disease compared to a healthy or a gingivitis patient.2 Therefore, ongoing BOP evaluation and risk assessment management becomes imperative.
BOP scores can also help us with the vague nature of determining severity in a gingivitis diagnosis. Our textbooks describe extent and degree of gingivitis as acute or chronic or marginal, papillary, or diffused— again, terms that are too “subjective,” not quantifiable or objective among clinicians, and therefore difficult to align to a treatment strategy. The 2018 classification suggests there is merit in defining the severity of gingivitis using BOP parameters as a communication tool with your patients, and I would also suggest, to align treatment strategies among clinicians. However, there is no objective clinical criteria or evidence to clearly differentiate mild, moderate, and severe gingivitis so it remains a matter of professional opinion.2 The criterion we use to differentiate severity in the clinics I work with is listed in Table 1. Treatment strategies are set up accordingly. Of course, you are free to set up your own severity criterion in your practice. Be sure to develop and align to treatment strategies based on your criterion.
YOUR AAP SCORECARD
The parameters of health and disease are defined very specifically in the new global 2018 AAP Periodontal Classification and Peri-Implant Diseases and Condition Classification using BOP Scores. These definitions provide measurable evaluation tools for the clinician and a clear communication tool for your patient in describing disease and setting treatment goals. Health and disease are described on three different periodontium types, which is new to the AAP’s Periodontal Health, Gingival Diseases and Conditions Category.2 The clinical features of Health and Gingival Disease are included in Table 2.
REWRITING THE NARRATIVE
Considering that probing is part of the standard of care defined by our regulatory bodies, setting a “zero percent BOP” treatment goal is a great way to begin to align with the 2018 classification and provide a higher level of patient care.
When you begin to change your narrative from “you have a little bit of bleeding” to “your BOP score today is 15%. “Our practice goal is zero percent,” you will create a measurable and motivational goal for your patients and further develop your collaborative relationship toward achieving optimal oral and systemic health.
BOP Points to Remember
About the Author
A passionate educator with 30+ years of clinical and business experience, Gabriele has revolutionized the way practices optimize client outcomes, growth, and revenue through her consultancy company, GEM Dental Experts Inc. A former practice owner, published author, dental hygiene program director, quality assurance program assessor, entrepreneur of the year, and thought leader for Crest and Oral B, Gabriele shares her innovative views on dental hygiene through her work as a public speaker, consultant, and business coach for forward-thinking dental practices. Gabriele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gemdentalexperts.com.