You have gum disease when plaque builds up under your gum line and your gums become inflamed due to bacteria. Your gums may become red, swollen, sensitive and start to recede and bleed easily. Over time they may pull away from your teeth and form pockets that get infected which may lead to loss of teeth. If teeth are lost, you may need to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants. But the good news is you can protect your teeth.
How is gum disease caused?
When plaque stays on your teeth too long and is not removed through daily brushing and flossing, it forms a hard, harmful covering called tartar. Your gums become inflamed when tartar forms near the gum line and the plaque underneath releases poisons. Only a dental professional can remove tartar through a dental cleaning. And you are more likely to develop gum disease if unhealthy gums run in your family, if you smoke, take medicine that leads to dry mouth, have poor nutrition or experience high stress.
What are the stages of gum disease?
There are three stages of gum disease. They are Gingivitis, Periodontitis and Advanced Periodontitis. Gingivitus is a mild form of gum disease when plaque builds up under your gum line and the gums become inflamed making them tender and likely to bleed. While Periodontitis is when the supporting bone and fibers holding the teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. When you have Advanced Periodontitis, the fibers and bone of your teeth are being destroyed causing your teeth to loosen and shift. This can affect your bite and the way you eat and talk.
How can I prevent this disease?
You need to remove plaque from your teeth to prevent gum disease. So ask your dentist to recommend the right dental products and show you the right way to brush and floss.
- Brush your teeth twice a day on all sides for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
- Brush the outer, upper and lower surfaces of each tooth keeping the toothbrush bristles angled against your gum line. Do this on the inside surfaces of all teeth too.
- Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria.
- Floss to remove plaque that a toothbrush can’t reach.
- Change your toothbrush every three months.
- Visit your dental professional regularly for a cleaning.
- Eat a well balanced diet and quit smoking.
How do I treat gum disease?
Only a dental professional can remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar on your teeth with a professional cleaning. You should visit them twice a year so they can spot and treat gum disease early. They may give you a bacteria-fighting fluoride mouth rinse to help control plaque. Your dental professional can do periodontal therapy to stop more damage to the gum tissue and bone if you have Periodontitis. In addition, they can do scaling and root planning to treat diseased periodontal pockets and gum infection. Your dental professional can use an ultrasonic scaling device to remove plaque, tartar and food debris above and below the gum line. Furthermore, they can hand scale the tooth and root surfaces to make them smooth and disease free. Your dental professional can also remove tartar deposits with laser treatment. They may need to use surgery to reduce pockets and bone grafting to restore lost bone if you have periodontal pockets more than 5 millimeters deep. Moreover, they will give you restorative options if you have Advanced Periodontitis and aggressive periodontal therapy can’t save your teeth and you need to remove teeth.
Our dental benefits and programme
Bonitas dental benefits are managed by DENIS, the largest network of dental professionals in South Africa. Their network has dentists located nationwide. You can find a dentist on the network near you using the ‘Find a Dentist’ tool on www.denis.co.za. Bonitas pays for pre-defined benefits of dental procedures at the Bonitas Dental Rate. Your dentist has a guide from DENIS showing you how to manage your dental benefit and the amount charged for each procedure. You need to get pre-authorisation for certain procedures. As a Bonitas member, you are also a member of the dental wellness programme. So you receive treatment-related information leaflets, oral screenings, dental products and advice at your company’s wellness days.