Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination.  This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.

A periodontal probe (small dental instrument) is gently used to measure the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and the gums.  You may have heard your dentist calling off numbers (2, 3, 4, 3, 5 etc.) during your exam. These numbers relate to the depth of the pocket space. The depth of a healthy sulcus measures three millimeters or less and does not bleed.  The periodontal probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters.  As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets get deeper due to advancing bone loss.

Drs. Versman, Heller, Beckman or one of our hygienists will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:

Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease.  Plaque and its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.

Periodontitis – Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar).  As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and a deeper space develops between the gum and the root of the tooth.  These deeper pockets become filled with bacteria and pus.  The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily.Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.

Advanced Periodontitis – The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament continue to be destroyed.  Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and eventually lost.  Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present. It is critical to treat gum disease at its earliest diagnosis. As the condition progresses, treatment becomes more complex and difficult. Please call our office if you have any questions concerning the diagnosis or treatment of gum disease.

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