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Keeping Your Smile Healthy

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is a bacterial infection that affects your gums and bone that supports your teeth. It can be prevented or easily treated if discovered early but, if left untreated, gum disease can lead to tissue, bone and tooth loss. This infection can come with sensitive teeth, persistent bad breath, and gums that are tender, red, and swollen. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a dentist right away for advice and treatment.

Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is a milder form of the disease, which only affects the gums. At this stage, it is treated simply by brushing and flossing daily, and regularly visiting your dentist for dental cleanings.

In later-stages of the disease, called periodontitis, gums are seriously damaged and begin to pull away from the teeth. You may also lose supporting bone. This stage of the disease may require surgical treatment and is not reversible.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is typically caused by a build-up of plaque (a sticky, naturally occurring film) under and along the gums. Harmful bacteria live in this plaque and if it isn’t properly cleaned away, the bacteria will grow and infect gum tissue. Other major causes are poor dental hygiene and smoking. Diabetes, an unhealthy diet, and stress also can add to your chance of developing gum disease.

How can I prevent gum disease?

The good news is there are several steps you can take to prevent gum disease — and sometimes even reverse it, if you catch it in the early stages. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research offers this advice:

  • Brush your teeth gently, at least twice a day, with special attention to the gum line. Use a fluoride toothpaste. To maximize your brushing effectiveness, replace your toothbrush every three or four months or sooner if the bristles begin to fray.
  • Floss at least once a day. Many people consider flossing optional. But flossing is the only reliable way to clean out harmful bacteria between teeth and under the gum line, where a toothbrush can’t reach. Your teeth aren’t truly clean until they’re brushed and flossed.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for a check-up and professional cleaning. Your dentist will check for gum disease and if needed, will recommend a treatment plan to follow at home.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Avoid smoking and all tobacco products. Studies show that smoking actually lowers the success of certain gum disease treatments

Is gum disease treatment covered by my dental plan?

Delta Dental’s insurance plans are designed to prevent disease or find it early, when it is easier to treat. In fact, most of Delta Dental’s insurance plans already cover important preventive treatments, like cleanings and exams, at little to no cost to you.

Schedule a dental visit and talk with your dentist about whether you are at risk for gum disease.