Periodontal disease is typically diagnosed by your dental hygienist and dentist at a routine dental check up. It is a disease of the gum tissue and supporting structures around the teeth. It is the leading cause of premature tooth loss.
Each tooth has a gingival “cuff” or pocket around the tooth. Periodontal screening at a routine dental visit measures this cuff or pocket. In a healthy individual the area is often between 1-3 mm in length. The gum tissue is pink and firm.
There is no bleeding present during this procedure. Once gingivitis starts to take place the readings start to get deeper. Bleeding becomes present and it is the major indicator of inflammation and periodontal disease. The disease progresses as the pocket around the tooth begins to get deeper.
The first stages of this disease begin when plaque and bacteria form in the mouth creating an immune reaction. The gum tissue swells, is inflamed and bleeds when touched. This stage is typically called gingivitis. It can easily be reversed with an increase in oral hygiene habits for approximately two to three weeks.
If this is left untreated, then the bacteria begin to multiple and migrate past the gum tissue into the bone and supporting structures around the teeth. Bacteria and plaque travel down the pocket. Over time the plaque hardens or solidifies into what is called tartar. The body responds to this tartar much as it would a splinter. The tissue is sore, puffy and won’t heal properly until it is removed.
Tartar is removed by a dental professional. Different stages of gum disease as well as tartar amounts require different types of dental cleanings. Some type of cleanings require anesthetic so that the patient has no discomfort. This type of cleaning is called periodontal scaling and root planning. This procedure can be done at your general dentist office often by a dental hygienist.
Sometimes the disease progression is advanced and an individual will be referred to a periodontist. A periodontist is a specialist of the gum tissues. They often do surgical procedures and more extensive treatment than a regular general dentist.