What are the symptoms of gum disease?

By: Updated: September 9, 2020

Gum disease often starts because of poor dental hygiene. Gingivitis precedes periodontitis, although the former does not always lead to the latter. Gingivitis occurs when plague builds up in teeth, leading to swollen or inflamed gums that bleed when brushed. At this stage, no irreversible damage has been done. However, further neglect can lead to periodontitis. This next stage causes gums and inner bone to recede from the teeth. These newly spaced out areas can easily trap bacteria (tartar) and become infected. At the final stage, the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place will be destroyed and tooth loss will occur.   

1. What is gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a serious gum infection that can cause irreversible gum and bone damage if left untreated. It is typically caused by poor dental hygiene leading to a build up of plague turning into tartar. Regular checkups to the dentist paired with proper dental hygiene  (flossing and brushing) can proactively combat this issue. 

2. What are some symptoms of gum disease?

Healthy gums are commonly pale pink and tight to the teeth. Some red flags would be:

  • Swollen gums
  • Red or purple gums
  • Tender gums
  • Receding gum line
  • Constant bad breathe
  • Sensitive or loose teeth

To know if you specific circumstances are gum disease, please visit your local dentist or dental professional. 

2. What causes gum disease?

The most common cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene, however there are some other factors:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of being prone to gingivitis and other dental disease
  • Medications (for example, those which restrict saliva flow)
  • Hormones
  • Impaired immune systems (ex. Diabetes, HIV)

3. Who can treat gum disease?

After initial screening, most dentists will refer you to a specialist known as a periodontist. 

4. How does the dentist check for gum disease?

  • Check the spacing between gum and teeth
  • The teeth itself, including alignment, sensitivity, etc.
  • The condition of bones surrounding your mouth such as the jawbone
  • Other standard signs listed above under symptoms


Related Reading: Do I Need Private Health and Dental Insurance in Canada? [The Truth for Small Business Owners]


6. What is involved in gum disease treatment?

This depends on the condition and stage of the gum disease. Some may require bacteria control and cleaning while others need restorative surgery. 

  • Typical dental cleaning or scaling and planing (a special form of cleaning that removes plague and tartar and then smoothens the rough spots)
  • Surgeries involving the bone and soft tissue around the gum 

For an in depth explanation of each of these treatments, visit WebMD

7. How can I fund my dental or periodontist appointment? 

Small business owners in Canada can take advantage of a Health Spending Account (HSA) to turn dental expenses into a pre-tax expense through their corporation. This can equate to more than 50% in savingsHealth Spending Accounts are also eligible for many other health-related expenses (licensed massage therapy, physiotherapy, prescription glasses, prescriptions drugs, etc.)

Instead of paying for the medical expense personally, an HSA channels money through your business with the result being a payment using before-tax dollars. It is a 100% legal, CRA-compliant plan that many aren't aware of. It was built specifically to help business owners manage their health and dental costs. In many cases, it is more effective than health insurance especially for a costly event like dental implants.

If you are NOT a small business owner, you can file these costs under the Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC). It is a non-refundable tax credit applied through your personal tax return.  


Learn more about how an HSA reduces your health and dental expenses:

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