What do gum disease, periodontitis, and periodontal disease all have in common? They’re different terms used to describe an infection within the soft tissues and bone around your teeth.
Types of Periodontal Infections
Approximately 90% of adults in the U.S. have some form of gum disease. For many, it’s the early phase known as gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs when plaque biofilm – that’s a “community” composed of bacteria associated with dental decay – sits along the gumline. The presence of plaque biofilm can cause swelling, tenderness or redness along the margins of the teeth.
Untreated, gingivitis can spread deeper into the surrounding structures of your teeth. At this point, the gums start to detach from the tooth and contribute to bone loss, causing deep “pockets” to develop around your teeth. You may even start to see receding gum lines, gaps between your teeth, and have problems with bleeding when you brush and floss.
This phase of infection is known as active periodontal disease. If treated early, your family dentist and hygienist can help you to stop or reverse it. Otherwise, it will continue to worsen until your teeth fall out on their own.
The Need to Treat Gum Infections
Periodontal disease doesn’t just impact your teeth or breath. It’s also associated with diseases or conditions like:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Reproductive problems, including ED, premature labor, and infertility
- Respiratory illnesses
Gum disease is also the main cause of adult tooth loss. That’s why it’s so important to address symptoms early before they lead to tooth “mobility” – the dental term for loose teeth that may soon fall out
Treatments for Periodontal Infections
Theaverage “dental cleaning” is designed to prevent problems like gum infections, or reverse gingivitis. When appointments are put off or oral hygiene is lacking, large amounts of tartar buildup can collect above and below the gumlines. At this point, a “deep cleaning” (otherwise known as a periodontal scaling and root planing) will be necessary to clean the hard to reach areas with special tools.
For more advanced infections, a deep cleaning may not be enough. Your dentist or periodontist may need to provide more intensive therapy to save your teeth from an extraction. Examples include adding bone or gum tissue to secure the tooth, providing surgery to make the area easier to clean, or placing antibiotics deep within the gum pockets themselves.
At this point, your dental care shifts from preventive to therapeutic. Your dental insurance provider will also dictate specific allowances for such procedures, as most plans are preventive in nature. That means the better you care for your teeth, the more your insurance covers; but allow infections to develop, and you’ll typically pay more out of pocket to treat the problem. Just be sure to note that without care, your infection can’t clear up on its own. Putting it off could cost your smile.
What is a Periodontal Expert (Periodontist?)
If you’re ever referred to see a periodontist, you can rest assured that they are the utmost expert to address your dental concern. Not only have they completed four years of dental school, but they have received an extra two to three years of formal education in the speciality field of periodontics.
Some of the procedures that they specialize in, cannot (or would be too challenging too) be completed in a general dentist office. Examples might include:
- Crown lengthening and pocket reduction
- Oral surgery
- Gum disease treatments
- Bone and soft tissue grafting
- Dental implants
Although many of these treatments can be provided by a general dentist, there are times when your condition may be too complex to address in an everyday manner. If your dentist refers you to an expert, rest assured that it is because he or she only wants the best possible outcome.
Paying for Expert Care
One downside to visiting an endodontics office is that the level of speciality care can often cost more than if the procedures were completed in a family office. As such, you’ll want to be sure to see an endodontist who is in network with your Cigna dental insurance plan. This reduces your copays, deductibles, or out-of-pocket expenses without jeopardizing your dental health.
If you need to see a gum disease specialist but don’t have dental insurance, or the treatment that you need costs more than your insurance plan’s maximum annual spending cap, you may want to consider Cigna dental savings plans. These plans are the affordable alternative to insurance, provide discounts of 10-50% off the usual cost of care, and are accepted by a nationwide network of accredited dentists. To find out more about Cigna Dental Plans, contact one of our savings experts today.