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What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums and the bone around your teeth. It's caused by bacteria that can live on your teeth and in the spaces between your teeth and gums. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss. Losing teeth can be bad for your nutrition, speech, appearance, and overall health. But here's the good news: Gum disease can be prevented and treated.
Recognizing the Signs
Like many diseases, the earlier you catch gum disease, the better your chances of successfully treating it. Look for these gum disease symptoms:
- Bad breath that won't go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Preventing Gum Disease
You and your dentist can work together as a team to help lower your gum disease risk. Be sure to get regular dental check-ups. And take good care of your teeth and eat a healthy diet.
At the dentist's office:
- Get regular exams and cleaning—these can help catch a problem before you need treatment. Your dentist will recommend how often you need to come in.
- If you have healthy gums, you'll probably need cleanings once or twice a year.
- Brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time
- Floss at least once a day
- Eat a balanced diet
- Schedule regular visits to your dentist
- Don't smoke or use tobacco products or e-cigarettes (vape)
Treating Gum Disease
If you show signs of gum disease, your dentist will likely recommend a deep cleaning (also known as scaling and root planing, or periodontal maintenance).
A deep cleaning usually involves a few dental visits. Each appointment will focus on a different section of your mouth. Your dentist or hygienist may need to numb your mouth before the cleaning. You may also need medication afterwards to manage any pain and prevent infection.
Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your cleaning. If you're a Cigna customer and need more information or have questions about your plan coverage, call the toll-free number on your dental ID card. A customer service representative is available to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Chew on This
- Nearly half of adults more than 30 years old have some form of gum disease.1
- The risk of gum disease increases with age: over 70% of adults more than 65 years old have it.1
- People with gum disease may be more likely to develop complications with heart disease or diabetes.1
- Women with gum disease may be more likely to go into preterm labor and deliver low birth weight babies.2
- Controlling gum disease can help save your teeth.2
1"Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments" NIH,
https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease/more-info#howDoI, July 2018.
2"Pregnancy and Oral Health" CDC,
https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/features/pregnancy-and-oral-health.html, February 2019.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.