Rooted in Care
Dr. Arpan Patel and the team at Alpha Dental Excellence help patients achieve healthy gums—the foundations of great smiles
by Daniel Sean Kaye

Dental care is crucial, but too often it is seen as an afterthought, especially to adults. After years of focusing on dental health and hygiene during childhood, many people get lax or even lazy about oral health as they age. To exemplify, how many people floss only before an annual visit to the dentist?

One major aspect of oral care that is often neglected is gum health, which not only has a marked impact on the mouth but also on the body’s overall systemic health. For those reasons, among others, people need to put more focus on periodontal health, according to Arpan Patel, D.M.D., owner of the Langhorne-based practice Alpha Dental Excellence.

Periodontal disease, which occurs when bacterial growth in the mouth negatively impacts the gums, generally falls into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen, tender gums and bad breath. Periodontitis commonly presents symptoms such as swollen gums that can start bleeding at the slightest provocation, deep pockets between the teeth and gums and decay of connective tissue that can result in loss of a tooth or teeth.

Even though periodontal disease affects a large percentage of the population, it remains an oft-overlooked issue. “[Periodontal disease] is prevalent in our country; between 75 and 85 percent of North Americans have it in one form or another,” says Dr. Patel, who goes on to note there is a reason nearly every dentist will encourage patients to floss regularly.

“The reason [so many people get periodontal disease] is simple,” he continues. “The primary factor is the lack of flossing. About 90 percent of Americans don’t floss regularly.”

The Approach
The initial way to approach periodontal disease, he says, involves three phases. “Since we are very patient centric, we start with a physiological exam,” he says of the Alpha Dental Excellence approach. “This is where we ask, ‘What is going on in the mouth from a health perspective?’ This includes cancer screenings and looking for infections.”

The next factor examined relates to what is referred to as “functional dentistry,” Dr. Patel explains this by posing the question, “What can be done to help the patient function?”

The third and final phase lays out what each patient has in mind in terms of appearance—“That is,” Dr. Patel says, “what does the patient want aesthetically?”

When examining soft-tissue management, Dr. Patel looks at three main scenarios. If there are indications of gingivitis but no blood loss, Dr. Patel says, “We do a good gum cleaning and then check you again in a month.” If there is more severe gingivitis, leading to slight bone breakdown and infection under the gum, or moderate to advanced breakdown, Dr. Patel says, “That is when you need a periodontist.”

It is important for patients to understand that periodontal disease is connected to far more issues than just those involving the teeth and gums. Dr. Patel explains that periodontal disease has been proven to be linked with other systemic diseases including ailments of the cardiovascular system, diabetes, respiratory issues and osteoporosis. Links to other issues such as high-risk pregnancy and low birth weight in babies have also been made.

“Some links are not definite but likely,” Dr. Patel says, “but there is a strong link to heart issues. The mouth has a ton of bacteria that can lead to an infection when the bacteria get in through the skin. ... Often T-cells fight [the infection] and it seldom gets into the bloodstream, but it can. I know we are going to find more and more links [between oral and systemic health] as we keep researching.”

Learning to Combat
A patient’s first line of defense, according to Dr. Patel, is a general dentist. Yet, while a general or family dental practitioner can help a patient address certain issues, such as inflamed gums or tartar buildup, patients need to be committed to oral health in order to enjoy tangible, long-term results.

“The patient [must do] what needs to be done to return to health and maintain it,” Dr. Patel says. “This holds the patient accountable. Simply put, you have to do more than just brush your teeth. You have to floss regularly, and you have to use mouthwash every night. Periodontal disease often does not have pain associated with it, so you really have to be vigilant.”

To better help patients understand what has happened or is happening to their mouth, as well as how to make things healthier for the long term, Dr. Patel and his team at Alpha Dental Excellence are dedicated to seeking out and implementing new ways to support patient health. Such innovation “is of the highest concern, and we show this through a very patient-centric approach and very effective treatment,” Dr. Patel says. “Dentistry has changed so much. Dental insurance makes it better, helping certain populations, but we like to focus on convenience factors. We want to provide an environment of support and affordability.”

These are just a few of the reasons Alpha Dental Excellence strives to go “above and beyond” for patients, offering 24-hour emergency service, sleep dentistry and catering to patients with a high anxiety level. Additionally, the practice offers in-house insurance plans and unlimited exams and cleanings, all in a relaxing, spa-like facility. 

“We want to make it as easy as possible for patients to get healthy and stay that way,” Dr. Patel says. “We want to take the fear away. We want to give them a reason to not have a reason to avoid their dental care. We really want to earn their trust. All aspects of dentistry are performed here, in a state-of-the-art facility by a compassionate, knowledgeable staff. You are treated as an individual, and your comfort and needs are the most important things to us.” 

Alpha Dental Excellence
240 Middletown Blvd., Suite 100
Langhorne, PA 19047

Photograph by Allure West Studios