To examine your gum health, a periodontal probe (small dental instrument) 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 does not bleed. The periodontal probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.
After examining your pocket depths, the amount of bleeding, inflammation, and tooth mobility, your dentist can diagnose what category your periodontal disease falls under.
The three categories are:
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and its toxic by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to
- Periodontitis: Plaque has hardened into calculus (tartar) and as calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.
- Advanced Periodontitis: The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligaments continue to be destroyed. Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and may be lost permanently. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.