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.
A periodontal probe (small dental “ruler”) 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 generally does not bleed. The periodontal probe help indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into one of the following categories:
Periodontal treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. Your dentist and dental hygienist will evaluate for periodontal disease and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Periodontal disease progresses as the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and fums gets filled with bacteria, plaque, and tartar, causing irritation to the surrounding tissues. When these irritants remain in the pocket space, they can cause damage to the gums and eventually, the bone that supports the teeth!
If the disease is caught in the early stages of gingivitis, and no damage has been done, one to two regular cleanings will be recommended. You will also be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene habits and having regular dental cleanings (possibly more frequently).
If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a special periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended. This is usually done one to two quadrants of the mouth at a time while the area is numb. In this procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from above and below the gum line (scaling) and rough spots on root surgaces are made smooth (planing). This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and pockets to shrink. Medications, special medicated mouth rinses, and an electric toothbrush may be recommended to help control infection and facilitate healing.
If the pockets do not heal after scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery may be needed to reduce pocket depths, making the teeth easier to clean. Your dentist may also recommend you see a Periodontist (specialist of the gums and supporting bone).
Good oral hygiene practices and periodontal cleanings are essential in maintaining dental health and keeping periodontal disease under control!
It only takes 24 hours for plaque that is not removed from your teeth to turn into calculus (tartar)! Daily home cleaning helps control plaque and tartar formation, but those hard-to-reach areas will always need special attention.
Once your periodontal treatment has been completed, your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend that you have regular maintenance cleanings (periodontal cleanings) up to four times a year. At these cleaning appointments, the pocket depths will be carefully checked to ensure that they are healthy. Plaque and calculus that is difficult for you to remove on a daily basis will be removed from above and below the gum line.
In addition to your periodontal cleaning and evaluation, your appointment will usually include: