Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease
A diagnosis of periodontal disease is made by a dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal exam. This kind of exam is always part of any regular dental checkup.
To perform the exam, a dental probe is used to gently determine the depth of a pocket or space -- called a sulcus -- between gums and teeth. A healthy pocket is 3 millimeters or less in depth and does not bleed. The probe can determine quickly and easily if pockets are deeper than that.
When combined with the amount of bleeding, tooth mobility, inflammation and other factors, pocket depth is an indication of the kind of gum disease. Types include:
Gingivitis: The first stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. This occurs when toxins in plaque irritate gums and make them tender and painful and also cause them to bleed.
- Periodontitis: As plaque that has hardened into calculus or tartar builds up on teeth, the gums recede away from the teeth. Pockets form or get deeper and these spaces between teeth and gums become filled with pus and bacteria. Gums are very irritated by this time, are inflamed and bleed easily. There may also be slight or even moderate bone loss.
- Advanced Periodontitis: Once advanced gum disease has occurred, teeth no longer have the support of bone or gums and the periodontal ligament may be destroyed. Teeth become loose and can be lost unless this condition is treated. There is also moderate to severe bone loss at this point.