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Research has shown that nearly 80% of the American population suffers from some level of Periodontal Disease. Your gum health is closely monitored because it is linked to many serious systemic diseases like heart attack , stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes, pre-term pregnancy and low-birth weight babies, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers!
Periodontitis is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination. This type of exam is a part of your regular dental check-up.
A "ruler" (small dental instrument called a periodontal probe) is gently used to measure the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and the gums. We are measuring from the top of the gum to the point at which the gum is attached to the tooth. The depth of a healthy sulcus measures three millimeters or less and does not bleed. The periodontal ruler helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.
Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, pus, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:
All pockets are 1-2 millimeters, gums are not swollen, there is no bleeding, and no bone loss. You will enjoy a routine "healthy mouth" cleaning and will probably be seen every 6 months!
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. Most often, you will receive a routine dental cleaning and a recommendation to be seen by our hygienist every 3-4 months until you've achieved a healthy diagnosis.
Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present. At this point, your treatment reccomendation is still non-surgical.
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. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present. In some very advanced cases, a referral to a periodontist may be required which often involves surgery.