How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed

A healthy mouth is the key to a healthy life. We use our mouths to eat, chew, speak and even catch our breath!  In addition, science has recently discovered that many systemic diseases start in the mouth. A healthy mouth means that your teeth, gums, and tongue are healthy and strong.  

How Do You Know You Have Periodontal Disease?

One of the first indicators that something may be wrong and that you may have periodontal disease is if your gums bleed.  You bite into an apple or brush your teeth and see red.  

Inflamed, red, or bleeding gums can all be signs of early periodontal disease called gingivitis. Plaque and toxin by-products accumulate on the surfaces of your gums and teeth and cause inflammation.  This is the most mild form of gum disease that can be easily reversed with proper dental hygiene.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a widespread infection of the gums, the surrounding tissues, and potentially even the bones.  It’s the result of excessive plaque that has collected on the teeth surfaces over a period of time. This plaque eventually turns into tartar or dental calculus – hard dental deposits that do not come off with regular brushing.  

These deposits can build up and cause the gums to recede and eventually the loss of your teeth.

Periodontitis, or advanced periodontal disease, needs to be treated by a dentist.  Periodontal disease is now known to be a risk factor in heart and lung disease. So, beyond tooth and bone loss, untreated it can have major detrimental effects on overall health.

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?

It’s important to diagnose periodontal disease as early as possible.  Even the early and mild forms of periodontal disease can rapidly progress into the more severe forms that require surgery.

Periodontal disease is diagnosed during your exam with one of our top Chicago dentists, which will include the following:

Checking your dental and medical history

Certain lifestyle choices and health issues can contribute to a risk of periodontal disease.  So it’s important to let your dentist know your full health and medical history, along with your lifestyle choices.

– Smoking or tobacco use
– Medical conditions such as diabetes or AIDS
– Some prescription medications that cause decreased salivary flow (such as antidepressants or high blood pressure medicines) 
– Familial predisposition or genetic susceptibility

Examining your mouth

One of our top Chicago dentists will examine your mouth and check the gums for any sign of inflammation or disease. They are looking for any visible signs like redness, tenderness or soreness, bleeding upon probing or without, and receding gums or teeth that appear longer.  They will also ask you about bad breath that does not go away, loosening or sensitive teeth, and any issues with chewing or biting.  

“Probing” for pockets

Then one of our top Chicago dentists will use a dental probe to check for and measure the depth of the space (pockets or sulcus) around your teeth. A healthy sulcus is 3 millimeters or less and does not bleed.

A periodontal pocket is formed when tartar and plaque continually accumulate on the teeth surfaces and the toxins soon deepen the pocket around the teeth. This pocket acts as a hideout for tartar and dental deposit build-up, thereby worsening the symptoms of periodontitis and may soon affect the bones that support the teeth in the absence of proper dental intervention.

The dentist will then determine if you have periodontal disease and grade it based on the size of the space, if and how much your gums bleed, and how mobile your teeth may be.  

Taking a dental x-ray

In most cases if the dentist suspects or diagnoses periodontal disease, they’ll order an x-ray to determine the level of bone loss.   Since bone loss isn’t visible to the naked eye and can happen despite normal appearing gum tissue, x-rays are instrumental in diagnosing the extent of periodontal disease.

The American Dental Association recommends seeing your dentist every six months. Periodontal disease is usually reversible if it’s caught early.   Book a routine or emergency appointment with one of our top Chicago dentists by calling 773-481-2200 or online now.  

Periodontal Disease

Source: “Periodontics”,