When caring for their mouths, people often only consider the visible crowns of their teeth. The gums are a crucial part of maintaining the delicate balance of oral health. These soft, pink supportive tissues form a seal or barrier around the teeth. This keeps bacteria and food out. If the gums do show signs of disease, early treatment is important to maintain oral health. In Bloomington, Drs. Mike Milligan and Marisa Milligan of Eastland Dental Center explain why gum disease needs to be treated.
Healthy gums are light or coral pink. Signs of gum disease include the following:
If gum disease is left untreated, it can lead to serious oral and overall health problems.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. When we eat, the bacteria feed off the food particles. The combination of food particles and bacteria forms a sticky substance called plaque. By following proper brushing and flossing habits, the plaque is removed in a timely manner. However, if the plaque is not cleaned off appropriately or in time, it hardens into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove. Professional cleaning is necessary to remove tartar from the teeth.
When plaque accumulates on the teeth, gum disease can start. Tartar and bacteria spread from the teeth into the gums causing gum redness and swelling. The first stage is called gingivitis. With early diagnosis and treatment, gingivitis can be reversed. Untreated, this leads to periodontitis. At this point, the gums begin to recede causing pockets or gaps around the teeth. Bacteria can accumulate in the pockets causing more damage. Periodontitis is not reversible but can be treated. Without treatment, the disease worsens into advanced periodontitis. Tooth loss is possible at this point.
Poor oral hygiene is a leading cause of gum disease, but there are additional risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disease. Risk factors include the following:
As gum disease progresses, its effects cause more problems. It causes pain, bone loss, and can even lead to tooth loss. Healthy gums help support and hold the teeth in place. When the gums recede, pockets form around the teeth where bacteria accumulate. The receding gum line is aesthetically unappealing and can lead to tooth sensitivity. The continued progression of gum disease allows bacteria to attack the connective tissue and bone. The teeth may loosen and fall out. Tooth loss leads to more bone loss as the jawbone needs a tooth in place to stimulate and regenerate the bone.
Early treatment of periodontal disease is important. Not only does it help prevent tooth loss and the host of problems that come with that, but also gum disease treatment protects overall health. Bacteria use the mouth as the portal to the rest of the body. When gum disease is left untreated, the bad bacteria can spread and cause destruction. There is a link between the health of the mouth and the rest of the body. The inflammation associated with gum disease increases the risk of systemic diseases. Among other health problems, gum disease has been connected to heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, low birth weight, premature birth, and dementia.
Patients who experience signs of gum disease should contact their dentist right away. Early treatment is important to keep the condition from escalating. Routine dental exams are an important step in maintaining oral health and preventing gum disease. At each appointment, the gums are closely examined for signs of periodontal disease. Appointments are precisely placed to keep bacteria and problems in check before major issues arise. Problems that do pop up between appointments are usually small and can be handled efficiently.
Dr. Mike completed his doctor of dental medicine degree from Southern Illinois University in 1978. Dr. Marisa completed her doctor of dental medicine degree from Midwestern University in 2015. Both doctors have logged hundreds of hours of continuing education to stay on top of the latest technologies in dentistry as well as the most current research on the oral-systemic, mouth-body connection to benefit their patients. Dr. Mike and Dr. Marisa are active members and in excellent standing with the American Dental Association, Illinois State Dental Association, Chicago Dental Society, McLean County Dental Association, American Academy of Oral Systemic Health, and numerous other societies.
Both doctors are avid golfers and have won several national golf tournaments over the years. They are the only father-daughter team in the state to have won the Illinois State Amateur Golf Championship. Dr. Mike in 1974 and Dr. Marisa in 2005.