A diagnosis of periodontal disease is made by your dentist or dental hygienist in the course of a periodontal examination. Every regular dental check-up should include this sort of evaluation.
To evaluate the health of the gums, a small dental instrument called a periodontal probe is gently utilized to measure the sulcus (the space or “pocket”) between the gum and each tooth. A healthy sulcus should not measure more than three millimeters, and should not bleed.
The periodontal probe enables your dentist or dental hygienist to determine whether pockets are deeper than three millimeters. These pockets usually grow deeper as periodontal disease progresses.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will evaluate pocket depths, extent of inflammation (if any), tooth mobility, amount of bleeding, etc., to reach a diagnosis that will fall into one or more of the categories listed below:
The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It occurs when plaque and its by-products irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed, sensitive, and prone to bleeding.
When plaque remains on the teeth, it hardens into calculus (also called “tartar”). As plaque and calculus continue to build up, the gums will begin to recede from the teeth. This results in the formation of deeper pockets between the gums and teeth, which in turn tend to incubate bacteria, causing infection and sometimes resulting in an accumulation of pus.
At this stage, gums are likely to become, inflamed, irritated, and prone to bleeding. Also, at this point, slight to moderate bone loss may also be evident.
As the disease continues to destroy gums, bone, and periodontal ligaments, the teeth lose more support. Without treatment, teeth that are affected by these conditions will become very loose and are likely to be lost. When the condition has advanced to this stage, it is likely that moderate to severe bone loss may be evident.
If you suspect that you are developing gum disease, you should not delay. See a skilled dentist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis!