Your dentist or dental hygienist will gently use a small dental instrument to measure the pocket or space between the tooth and the gums in order to screen for periodontal disease. The instrument gives readings in millimeters. Healthy gums measure three millimeters or less and do not bleed. The periodontal probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As gum disease progresses, the pocket between the tooth and the gums usually get deeper.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will use these pocket depths, the presence or absence of bleeding gums, tooth mobility, redness in the gums, visual appearance of the teeth and the bone surrounding them on radiographs, etc., to make a periodontal diagnosis which will belong to one of the following categories:
Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and the germs living in the plaque irritate the gums. This irritation makes the gums tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed. Bleeding while flossing is an indicator of gingivitis. The best way to help your gingivitis is to keep flossing! Flossing cleans the germs and their irritant by-products off the teeth and allows the gums to heal.
After plaque accumulates on the teeth, it hardens into calculus (also known as tartar). When calculus and plaque are allowed to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth. These pockets give germs a great hiding place. The pockets become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, often look redder, and bleed easily. Toxins build around the calculus, and the bone shrinks away from them. As a result, bone loss begins, and otherwise healthy teeth may begin to become loose.
Gum treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend appropriate treatment.
If the disease is caught early, before damage to the bone is done, regular cleanings will be recommended. Follow up care at home daily is imperative for the prevention of gingivitis. Your dentist or dental hygienist will provide instructions to help you improve your oral hygiene habits.
If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a deep cleaning will be recommended. This cleaning may need to be spread out over a couple appointments for your comfort. Your dentist or hygienist will always ask you if you would prefer to be numb for your comfort during the procedure. In this procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from the teeth, and rough spots (as a result of calculus buildup) on root surfaces are made smooth. This procedure helps gum tissue to heal. Consequently, the pockets between the teeth and the gums will shrink, making it easier for you to clean these pockets at home. Mouth rinses, medications, and an electric toothbrush are recommended to help control infection and healing.
It only takes twenty-four 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 gum treatment has been completed, your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend that you have regular maintenance cleanings (periodontal cleanings), usually four times a year. At these cleaning appointments, the pocket depths will be checked. Plaque and calculus that is difficult for you to remove on a daily basis will be removed from above and below the gum line. With your help brushing and flossing properly at home, your dentist or dental hygienist can help you maintain a healthy, beautiful smile for a lifetime.
For more information on Periodontics and Gum Disease or to schedule an appointment, give us a call today!