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.
Your dentist will perform a thorough periodontal examination at your routine dental check-up. By using a periodontal probe, your dentist will measure the depth of the space between your teeth, also called the sulcus. If the sulcus measures 3 mm or less and does not bleed, this is considered healthy. (Of course, pockets get deeper as gum disease worsens.) This sulcus depth information, combined with judgments of bleeding, inflammation, and bone loss will determine if the patient is healthy or is on the path to gum disease. Gum disease itself can be classified in three stages:
- Gingivitis – This is the beginning of gum disease. By this point, bacterial toxins have already started to irritate gums and has made them inflamed and prone to bleeding.
- Periodontitis – The gums have started to pull away from the teeth due to the buildup of tartar. The sulcus is deepening and filled with bacteria and pus. Some bone loss is common at this stage.
- Advanced Periodontitis – This stage is the beginning of tooth loss. Teeth are starting to loosen as bones and tissue continue to break down. If left untreated, teeth will begin to fall out.
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