Childhood illnesses, chronic diseases and indicators about the diet can be detected in a person’s teeth long after they’ve passed. A specialist can tell if a person experienced malnourishment or excess hundreds, even thousands of years later. It kind of makes you wonder what your teeth will say about you one day…
Another thing that can be seen through the study of a person’s teeth is whether or not they suffered from gum disease. Unfortunately this is not an ailment that disappeared with the Neanderthals. Humans still suffer from it today, but unlike in pre-historic times, there’s treatment available.
What Exactly is Gum Disease?
Stemming from poor oral health care, gum disease, or “periodontitis” affects your gums and the roots of your teeth. A common indicator of this condition is chronic halitosis, or bad breath. Your gums become inflamed and often bleed. This leaves you open to infection, which can get worse—and even affect the rest of your body, including your heart.
When your gums become inflamed over a period of time, pockets form around your teeth, loosening them at the roots. In the worst-case scenario your teeth will fall out of their sockets, but not if the condition is caught in time.
It’s easy to focus on your teeth and forget about your gums, but don’t forget your teeth are held in place by them! If you neglect one thing, it will affect the other.
Preventing Gum Disease
Unless you have a genetic predisposition, there’s no reason for you to acquire gum disease to begin with. Caring for your gums takes only minutes out of your day, so there’s no excuse for neglect! All it takes is simple regular care. In order to prevent periodontitis from occurring, make sure to do the following:
- Brush at least twice a day with a medium bristle brush.
- Floss regularly, strengthening those gums and the spaces between your teeth. As you’ve heard, flossing is very important. You have to make sure that no food gets stuck in the tiny spaces between your teeth, as this can cause decay and inflame the gums. Many people forget (or ignore) this step and later regret not doing it.
- Have regular checkups with your dentist. During your next visit you will likely have some scaling done, which is when your teeth are scraped with an instrument, removing plaque. This is a routine procedure done in most, if not all checkups, and it helps to protect the health of your teeth and gums.
- Avoid overly sugary food or acidic food and drinks. Diet is another thing to keep in mind. Sugary drinks and sodas can be very harmful to your teeth and gums. Try to drink as much water and milk as possible and incorporate healthy foods like vegetables into your diet.
The Canadian Dental Association has some dental care tips listed on their website.
Talk to Your Dentist
If you notice that your gums bleed after or during brushing, or they are inflamed and they hurt, you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Don’t wait for your next checkup. This may be an issue that can be handled if treated early enough.
Make sure you tell your dentist about any changes in your health or any new medication you’re taking, because these may have an effect on your oral health. Some medications may weaken your teeth and/or gums or cause dry mouth, which then elevates the risk of gum disease.
Treating Gum Disease
If your gums are receding or starting to become inflamed, your dentist may recommend root planing, which is very similar to scaling, but the instrument delves deeper into the gums.
If your gums are already suffering, the tissue may be dead or dying. In this case, your dentist may recommend dental surgery. A gingivoplasty is the removal of a small portion of your gums. A gingivectomy is the removal of an entire portion of the gums. These are surgeries done when the gums are too far gone to use preventative measures.
After these treatments, if the gums do not heal or the situation becomes worse, you’re looking at tooth loss.
Make Regular Dental Visits a Priority
As stated before, make sure you see your dentist regularly, preferably twice a year, depending on your insurance coverage. You may be limited to a recall visit, polishing and x-rays every nine months, but you can receive scaling and root planing treatment any time, as long as you do not exceed the amount allowable by your plan.
For example, you may have a regular routine visit with your dentist, but he or she notices that your gums need a lot more attention. They may book you for a follow-up visit within the next few weeks to receive more scaling treatment.
A unit of time for scaling is fifteen minutes. Most plans will cover 6–8 units per person, per year. It doesn’t matter when you use these units as long as you are aware of the maximum according to your plan. If your dentist requires additional units for your treatment, they may submit an estimate, but that will not guarantee coverage.
It’s much easier to keep up with your appointments and receive preventative treatment, than to have your gums removed or lose your teeth. Remember, extensive dental work costs a lot of money in the long run, even with insurance. By “nipping it in the bud”, you can keep your costs manageable.
If you don’t already have an insurance plan, it’s in your best interest to get one to offset your costs, with or without gum disease. And it’s a bad idea to refuse treatment that might not be covered. Take care of the problem no matter what. Your teeth will thank you!
Seeing a Specialist
Sometimes a general practitioner can take care of all the issues in your mouth, but there are times when they may feel you should be treated by a specialist. A practitioner who specializes in gums and gum disease is called a periodontist.
This specialist will have the expertise needed to help correct issues with gums and gum disease. Please note, however, that your plan will only pay the maximum amount allowable for a general practitioner. Specialists charge above and beyond these fees. While they are eligible, your plan likely won’t cover the whole charge.
Listen to Your Dentist
Gum disease is a progressive ailment that doesn’t just set in overnight. If your dentist warns you that your gums are in danger of developing periodontitis, listen carefully. They may provide instructions on home care and what to watch for. They may also determine a regimen of scaling for the year.
If you follow their instructions carefully, you may avoid developing gum disease and will go on to lead a very healthy life with all your teeth.
Dental insurance is there to offset costs, but ultimately, it’s there to help you maintain your health. If you don’t already have a plan, give our office a call today and find out what coverage is available and how you can get the most out of your plan. You owe it to yourself to seek the best care possible.