Gum-disease prevention, treatment helps broader health
Research underscores the connections between good oral health and one’s overall well-being.
The understanding of how oral health impacts overall health has changed the way dentists and physicians view and treat many dental conditions, especially gum disease. Gum disease, after all, can contribute to other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease.
(For military members, gum disease also can impact dental readiness and affect military members’ worldwide deployment status.)
The connection between the mouth and one’s overall health can be subtle and surprising. Chronic mouth pain, for example, can damage one’s self-esteem, interfere with social interactions and even result in lost productivity, stress and depression.
Understanding gum disease and inflammation in the mouth is a good way to understand the implications of the oral health/whole health connection.
Inflammation is an underlying problem in many diseases, including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to have poor heart health and an increased risk for heart attacks, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream, where it can cause inflammation and injure major organs.
The disease reveals itself in one of two ways:
- Gingivitis: A mild form of gum disease, marked by red, swollen and/or bleeding gums.
- Periodontitis: A more serious condition causing gums to recede from the teeth, creating pockets that become infected. As it worsens, the body’s immune system often responds by destroying the tissues and bone that hold the teeth in place.
Symptoms can include:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Pain or trouble chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
Individualized dental care can turn the tables on gum disease. If the gum disease has progressed, your dentist might recommend a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, or surgery in severe cases.
If you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Half of all American adults have some form of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1
Though common, gum disease is a largely preventable condition. Its beginning stages can be reversed through optimal oral hygiene at home and periodic professional care at the dentist’s office.
For more advanced stages, dentists can perform deep cleanings known as root planing and scaling. After your deep cleaning, you may need to see your dentist more frequently so that she can ensure that you are healing. Your dentist could refer you to a periodontist, a gum-disease specialist.
Your TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) will help. Enrollees can get two routine dental examinations by the same provider, two routine cleanings and two fluoride treatments in a consecutive 12-month period at no cost when seeing a network dentist. See the TDP’s coverage details.
The TDP provides enhanced benefits for members with chronic medical conditions. This is TDP’s way of ensuring that enrollees have access to the additional dental care they need to maintain a healthy mouth and fight gum disease.
The best defense are good dental habits. Remember: Brush at least twice a day, floss and visit with your dentist periodically.
The TRICARE Dental Program has you covered
If you or an enrolled family member has been diagnosed with a chronic illness such as heart disease, the TDP Wellness Program provides additional dental benefits at no cost to you. Register to use TDP Wellness Program any time after your TDP effective date of coverage. Here’s how:
- Select the red "Log in to My Account" button at the top of this page and log in using your DS Logon
- Select “Manage My Wellness”
- Add your medical condition
1P.I. Eke, B.A. Dye, L. Wei, G.O. Thornton-Evans, R.J. Genco, “Prevalence of Periodontitis in the United States: 2009 and 2010,” CDC, 2012