Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dental hygienist or dentist during your routine dental exam and periodontal examination. Your regular dental check-up should always include this type of exam.
A periodontal probe (small dental instrument) is carefully placed to measure the pocket or space (sulcus) between the the gums and teeth. The depth of a healthy sulcus should measure 3 mm or less and should not bleed to be considered healthy. The periodontal probe helps show if pockets are deeper than 3 mm. As periodontal disease advances, the pockets usually become deeper.
Dr. Braithwaite and the hygienist will use the amount of bleeding, tooth mobility, inflammation, and pocket depth, etc., to make a diagnosis that will include one of the following categories:
Gingivitis is the 1st stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and its bacterial by-products irritate the gums, making them inflamed, likely to bleed, and tender.
Plaque hardens into tartar (calculus). As plaque and calculus begin to build up, the gums start to shrink away from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the teeth and gums and become filled with infection and bacteria. The gums become inflamed, bleed easily, and are very irritated. Slight to moderate loss of bone may exist.
The teeth lose even more support as the bone, periodontal ligament, and gums continue to be affected. Without treatment, the affected teeth may become extremly loose and can be lost. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss can exist.