When people want to improve their health, they often focus on improving their diet, starting an exercise program or quitting bad habits like smoking.

However, few people realize that their gums are also a crucial part of their overall well-being. Many serious health conditions have been linked to gum disease. It’s clear that oral health is integral to overall health. This February for Gum Disease Awareness Month, learn how Delta Dental coverage can support your clients’ gum health and their overall wellness.

The connection between gum disease and overall health

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common bacterial infection that causes a chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. It’s the major cause of adult tooth loss, and it affects nearly half of people over 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The effects of gum disease extend well beyond the mouth. Gum disease has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Inflammation from bacteria in the gums may eventually lead to narrowing of arteries and heart trouble.
  • Dementia. Chronic gum inflammation can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
  • Glaucoma. Tooth loss and gum disease may increase the risk of this disease of the optic nerve.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. The bacterium that causes periodontal disease may increase the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, lead to an earlier onset of the disease and cause symptoms to progress more quickly.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing gum disease. In turn, having gum disease can make your blood glucose harder to control.
  • Premature birth and low birth weight. Pregnant women are at increased risk of gum disease due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow. Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, as well as low birth weight and other pregnancy complications.

Preventing gum disease and treating the condition early can reduce health costs, dental treatments and medical expenses in the long term.

How Delta Dental coverage can support gum health

Delta Dental offers coverage that can help your group and individual clients avoid the onset and development of gum disease. Routine dental checkups and cleanings, covered by all Delta Dental plans as diagnostic and preventive services, can help prevent and monitor gum disease.

Treatments for gum disease, such as scaling and root planing, are typically covered under most dental plans under periodontic services. Following a scaling and root planing, a patient with gum disease may receive specialized deep cleanings for periodontal maintenance. This procedure, likewise covered under most plans, can minimize the recurrence or progression of gum disease.

However, when non-surgical treatment is inadequate, Delta Dental’s standard plans offer several surgical treatments to slow down or prevent the progression of the disease. Common procedures include:

  • Gingivectomy. Diseased gum tissue is removed and reshaped to get rid of pockets between the teeth and gums.
  • Gingival flap surgery. Gum tissue is separated from surrounding teeth and deflected back to allow a dental surgeon access to the jawbone and the root of the tooth for deep scaling and root planning.
  • Osseous surgery. Also called pocket reduction surgery, this procedure eliminates the bacteria populating the pockets by cutting the gums to remove the bacteria and repair the damaged bone.
  • Bone grafting. This procedure increases the amount of bone in a part of the jaw where bone has been lost or where additional support is needed. Bone may be taken from elsewhere in the body and surgically fused to existing bone in the jaw.

In addition, your group clients can opt in to SmileWay® Wellness Benefits which offer expanded coverage for gum treatment for members with chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and stroke.

Everyone deserves healthy gums. Be sure to talk to your group and individual clients about the importance of gum health and how to select a Delta Dental plan that can support their overall health needs.