Diagnosing gum disease requires a periodontal exam by a dentist or hygienist. The periodontal exam is a routine part of your regular dental exam. The periodontal exam is done using a dental probe to gently measure the depth of the pocket, known as a sulcus, between the teeth and gums. A healthy sulcus is less than 3 millimeters deep and does not bleed. The probe allows the dentist to quickly and easily measure precise depth.
Determining the extent of gum disease is done by observing:
- Depth of gum pockets
- Extent of bleeding
- Movement of teeth
- Other symptoms.
Considering these signs, the dentist can determine the stage of gum disease. Stages include:
- Gingivitis – This is the earliest stage of gum disease and occurs when plaque and bacteria irritate the gums, leading to pain, tenderness, and bleeding. Gum disease is easiest to treat at this stage.
- Periodontitis – Over time, plaque hardens into tartar, also known as calculus. As tartar accumulates around the gum line, the gums pull away from the teeth and pockets become deeper. The gum pockets may begin to bleed or fill with pus. At this stage, gums become inflamed and irritated. As this stage progresses, bone may begin to erode.
- Advanced peridontitis – In late stage gum disease, tartar continues to build up and more bone wears away. As the bone erodes, it cannot support the teeth and the periodontal ligament may be damaged or destroyed. The teeth become loose and may fall out if gum disease is not treated.
For a free Gum Disease consultation, call (619) 640-5100.