According to the experts at the National Institute of Health Medline Magazine, almost half of all adults over 30 have some form of gum (or periodontal) issue, making it one of the leading dental health concerns.
February has been designated as Gum Disease Awareness Month. Launched in 2012 by the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, the goal is to raise public awareness of the prevalence of gum disease and the consequences of leaving it untreated. Below we break down the ins and outs of gum disease – causes, prevention, and how to get the care you need.
What causes gum disease?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene – the result of not brushing and flossing enough. However, other causes include hormone or metabolism fluctuations, medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, and excessive teeth grinding and clenching.
The most common gum disease symptoms are red and swollen gums and bleeding gums after brushing or flossing your teeth – the stage of gum disease called gingivitis. As gum disease advances, the tissue and bone that supports the teeth can be compromised. At this stage, bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth, loose teeth, and gum abscesses are all prevalent – signs that the disease has progressed to periodontitis.
What are the risk factors for gum disease?
While gum disease can affect anyone, the most significant risk factors include:
- Lifestyle: gum disease is common with smokers – 64.2 percent of current smokers suffer from gum disease, according to the National Institute of Health Medline Magazine.
- Age: age is a significant factor in gum disease. Seventy percent of adults over 65 have periodontal disease, according to the National Institute of Health Magazine.
- Dental care habits: many cases of gum disease stem from irregular brushing and flossing.
How can I prevent gum disease?
Preventing gum disease is as simple as maintaining good oral hygiene. According to the experts at HealthMarkets, the best ways to maintain dental health include:
- Maintain a regular oral hygiene routine: brush your teeth twice per day for at least two minutes with an approved toothpaste, and floss daily.
- Choose products with fluoride: toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride help to prevent tooth decay.
- Stay hydrated: your mouth needs to retain moisture to keep it healthy. Consider a lozenge or hydrating spray if you struggle with a dry mouth.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol: smoking and drinking are the most common factors for throat and mouth cancer.
- Visit your dentist at least once per year for a cleaning: your dentist can catch any early signs of disease right away.
What should I do if I think I have gum disease?
According to the Oral Health Foundation, the first thing to do if you notice blood when you’re brushing your teeth is to visit your dentist. They’ll check your teeth and gums and measure the ‘cuff’ around each tooth to check for signs of periodontal disease. They may even choose to conduct some x-rays to assess the damage.
Following a diagnosis, the dental team will spring into action. After removing plaque and tartar from your teeth, your dentist will conduct a thorough review of correct cleaning practices with you, so you can perform them at home. They may also treat your teeth’s roots to ensure that the infection has been removed (called root planing), depending on the severity of your case.
After treatment, it’s essential to adhere to stringent dental hygiene guidelines. You’ll need to brush, floss, and remove plaque each day, as well as attend regular appointments with a qualified dentist.
Insurance for gum disease
According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, the price of gum disease treatment varies – it could cost as little as $500 or as much as $10,000, depending on the type of treatment. Take a look at the most common dental healthcare insurance options below:
- Medicaid: coverage options vary state by state. However, according to Medicaid, most states provide emergency dental services for adults, less than 50 percent of them offer comprehensive dental care for adults, and there are no minimum requirements for adult dental coverage.
- Medicare: while Medicare doesn’t cover dental services that apply specifically to tooth or gum care, it may cover oral surgery. Essentially, Medicare will cover gum surgery if the procedure is necessary to preserve a quality of life or if the disease has progressed seriously.
- Private Insurance: many private insurers offer excellent coverage for gum-related issues. Research the options available in your state for the most competitive rates, and be sure to prioritize preventative care (frequent cleanings, etc.) during your search.
Taking these proactive dental health steps will go a long way in keeping your mouth healthy.