Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is diagnosed by Dr. Cross or your 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. 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 usually get deeper. X-rays are also very important in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease because they allow us to see how much bone has been lost around the teeth.
Dr. Cross or your hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. Plaque and its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.
Mild to Moderate Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
Deeper pockets of 4 to 6 millimeters form between the gums and teeth and they become filled with bacteria. Any pockets this deep are difficult to impossible to clean without professional treatment. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present. There may be some bleeding of the gums, however, there is usually no pain associated with mild to moderate gum disease.
Advanced Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
If the pockets get deeper than 6 to 7 millimeters, the disease is considered to be advanced. 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 may be lost.