Over 70% of all Americans will develop periodontal disease at some point during their lives. Luckily, a periodontal exam and good oral hygiene can help prevent it. 

Here's how periodontal disease is diagnosed, and how it's treated after diagnosis. 

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums. It also deteriorates the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth the longer it's left untreated. 

How is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?

Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist during a periodontal exam. Experienced professionals can usually tell if you have periodontal disease in seconds. 

Looking at Pocket Depth

A popular tool used in diagnosing periodontal disease is a periodontal probe. It is a thin metal rod that slides under your gums to measure the depth of the pocket between your teeth and gums. Healthy pockets are between one and three millimeters deep — anything larger than that could mean you have gum disease. 

The only way to get an accurate diagnosis of periodontal disease is to schedule an appointment with a dental professional. 

While the initial diagnosis can be quick, dental professionals will usually want to determine the extent of damage with x-rays. This will reveal any bone loss and help to determine a treatment plan.

Checking for Symptoms of Gum Disease

There are many symptoms of periodontal disease

For example:

  • Bleeding gums when flossing or brushing your teeth

  • Discomfort when brushing or flossing your teeth

  • Gum inflammation and discoloration

  • Receding gum line

Dentists will look out for swollen gums, gum recession, or gums that bleed easily. This could indicate early gum disease. 

Even if only one symptom is present, you should report it to your dentist as soon as possible. Periodontal disease is something that needs quick action.

Diagnosing Each Stage of Periodontal Disease

The American Academy of Periodontology categorizes periodontal disease into four stages. Each stage is worse than the last, with stage I being the mildest and stage IV being the most severe. 

As periodontal disease progresses, more signs and symptoms accompany it, making diagnosis easier.

Stage I - Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease and the only one that is reversible. 

Those with gingivitis often have pocket depths within a healthy range. Because of this, it is usually diagnosed by the common signs and symptoms. This includes swollen gums, discolored gums, bleeding when brushing or flossing teeth, gum soreness, and receding gums.

Stage II

In stage two, bacteria have begun deteriorating the teeth and soft tissues that support your teeth. Pocket depth in stage two usually measures between three and four millimeters.

At this stage, you will have a few or all the symptoms of gingivitis but may experience your permanent teeth becoming loose due to bone loss.

Stage III

Stage three periodontal disease is diagnosed by a pocket depth of four to five millimeters and symptoms from the two previous stages.

Additionally, patients diagnosed with this later stage of gum disease have already lost one to four permanent teeth. 

Stage IV

Diagnosing the last stage of periodontal disease is the easiest because the indicators are abundant.

Those with stage four periodontal disease have tooth loss exceeding five permanent teeth and severe gum recession. Also, their remaining teeth are shifting due to severe bone and soft tissue loss.

How is Gum Disease Treated After Diagnosis?

After being diagnosed with periodontal disease, you will want to begin treatment as soon as possible.

Early-stage treatment: 

  • Dental cleaning - In very early stages, sometimes a regular deep cleaning is enough to remove gum-disease-causing bacteria. 

  • Scaling and root planing - Provides a deep cleaning of pockets to remove plaque and tartar buildup. 

  • Pocket irrigation - Typically used after scaling and root planing to clean the pockets even further, making sure to get any remaining buildup. 

Advanced gum disease treatment: 

  • Pocket reduction surgery - This treatment involves pulling back your gums to clean tartar from tooth roots. It allows dentists to get a deeper clean than they could with scaling and root planing or pocket irrigation. 

  • Gum & Bone Grafts - When gum disease has caused tissue and bone loss, gum and bone grafts are necessary to replace them. This treatment provides the necessary support for remaining teeth, or new dental implants. 

Periodontal Disease Diagnosis in Fremont, CA

Diagnosing periodontal disease early is the best way to fight long-term effects and severe health problems. If you think you might be suffering from it, schedule an appointment online or give us a call today


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