Researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health found that 50 percent of adults over the age of 30 had gums that regularly bled after brushing. If you’ve ever experienced bleeding gums after brushing or flossing your teeth, you may have developed periodontal disease without even realizing it.
Many people brush off the fact that their gums are sore or bleed after flossing and don’t think about how it could potentially impact their overall health. Periodontal disease refers to any kind of infection around your teeth. More specifically, in your gums and in the tissues that make up the structure of your mouth.
The Earliest Stage of Periodontal Disease
The earliest stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It occurs because of bacteria building up on the gum line. Through good oral hygiene, you can reverse gingivitis. But without treatment, recurrent gingivitis can lead to deeper infections that spread through the gums and into the jawbone. Gum disease is also linked to an increased risk factor for cardiovascular disease and various lung diseases.
Currently, Medicare covers oral exams due to a related condition, such as an inpatient dental exam before surgery. The preventative dental treatments required to prevent gingivitis from developing into more dangerous forms of periodontal disease are not covered and can be quite costly. Fortunately, we’ve found some tips to help you save money on dental care.
Signs and Symptoms
It’s important to learn more about periodontal disease to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep our gums and oral tissue healthy. Ideally, brushing and flossing our teeth on a regular basis should help keep them clean and limit the spread of plaque, which is a sticky substance that adheres to teeth and will eventually harden into tartar if it isn’t removed.
Tartar is often an unpleasant color and can only be removed by a dentist’s professional cleaning equipment. Sometimes, if there’s a lot of tartar present, you can see it on your gum line. Generally, poor dental hygiene is the reason behind plaque buildup, but some people are more susceptible because of genetic factors, hormones, or medications.
In addition to tartar spreading along your gum line, early symptoms of gum disease can include red, swollen, or receding gums, sensitive teeth, and bad breath. While these symptoms are extremely common, you take them seriously.
A doctor will also be able to check the “pockets” around your teeth. A pocket of between one to three millimeters is healthy, but anything greater than three millimeters is not. As periodontal disease advances, teeth can feel loose and you may find abscesses and infections occur more frequently.
Risks of Having Periodontal Disease
There are many symptoms of gingivitis and periodontal disease, including bad breath and bleeding gums, that will definitely affect you on a daily basis. However, one of the most important symptoms to be aware of are the pockets between your gums and your teeth.
Ideally, the gums and teeth should fit together snugly, with no more than three millimeters between them. It can be difficult to keep an eye on these microscopic changes without a dentist’s specialized instruments. As plaque and tartar develop, it causes the gums to become inflamed, which pulls them away from the teeth, and deepens the pockets to unhealthy levels.
Eventually, these pockets can widen so that more and more plaque is caught inside them. If this occurs, it leaves you vulnerable to infections below the gum line, which could cause both tooth and bone loss. Periodontal disease is currently the leading cause of adult tooth loss.
In addition to losing teeth, long-term periodontal disease puts us at a higher risk for serious conditions like heart disease, strokes, and lung diseases. It can also add additional risk factors for people who already have diabetes.
How to Get Treatment
There are many people who want to protect their oral health, but just don’t have the means. Currently, Medicare only covers a small percentage of oral health exams and does not cover any form of treatment — preventative or otherwise.
Most dentists recommend coming in for a routine exam and cleaning once a year if you have no risk factors for gum disease. If you’re identified as someone who is at a high risk for periodontal disease, they’ll likely want to see you every six months and these visits can get expensive.
So, here are some of our best tips for saving money on your dental visits.
Visit a Dental School
Booking your next dental appointment at a dental school can really reduce your bill. Students are eager to prove their skills and licensed dentist supervises every appointment to provide guidance.
Many people choose to save money by visiting a student dentist for their preventative care appointments, then switch to a professional clinic if they need more complex work done, like a root canal.
Look for Supplemental Dental Insurance Plans
Many people who are on Medicare or an insurance plan through their work choose to add a supplemental plan that covers dental work. If you know that you have major dental work on the horizon — like a root canal or gingival graft surgery — it’s a good idea to obtain additional coverage.
Companies like Delta Dental or Guardian Direct are well-reviewed and have great options.
Look for a Dentist Offering Low or No-Interest Financing
If you need to go into the dentist for emergency treatment or can’t secure dental insurance, you’ll need to pay out of pocket. Ask your dentist if they have any options for low or no-interest financing. They may also be able to offer you favorable terms on a short-term payment plan.
Dealing with periodontal disease is never easy, but having a proactive attitude is the only way that you can prevent long-term health problems. Brushing, flossing, and regular preventative dental visits are a key part of keeping gingivitis and other types of periodontal disease at bay. Remember, you only have one set of teeth!