Do you suspect that you have gum disease? Make an appointment with your hygienist or dentist. Only they can diagnose Periodontal Disease.
You want to avoid the loss of teeth and other problems caused by advanced gum disease.
At Cranford Dental diagnosing gum disease is a top priority during our new patient exams. If you are a regular patient we evaluate your gum condition at every visit.
Here are the diagnostic steps we use to determine if you have gum disease:
Analyze Risk Factors
Your hygienist will do a thorough medical/family history. Factors that make you at risk for gum disease:
- Genetics – If your parents or grandparents wore dentures, they may have had gum disease. This puts you at higher risk.
- Smoking – Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for gum disease. Smoking also lowers the chance for successful treatment.
- General Health – Diabetic patients and other medically compromised patients are at a higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
- Medications – There are numerous medications that can cause dry mouth, or xerostomia. Without enough saliva, the mouth is more susceptible to infections such as gum disease.
- Hormonal Changes – Changes in females can make the gums more sensitive and make it easier for Gingivitis to develop.
Visual Clinical Exam
Your hygienist will do a visual examination of your mouth, noting signs of inflammation, dry mouth, bad breath, loose teeth, recession, and hygiene habits that may indicate that you have some form of gum disease.
Your hygienist will take a periodontal measurement of the teeth using a probe (an instrument that looks like a tiny ruler), to measure the space between the gum and the tooth.
Gum disease causes your gums to bleed and/or become infected, swollen, or tender. As a result, the infected gum starts to separate from the teeth.
The hygienist gently inserts the probe into this space, or pocket. She will call out and record the pocket measurement (in millimeters) in the patient chart.
1-3mm pockets without bleeding = healthy
Teeth and gums are in healthy. Keep up the good work!
1-3mm pockets with bleeding = Gingivitis – the mildest form of gum disease
Typically, a professional cleaning accompanied with good hygiene habits will remedy this.
3-5mm pockets without bleeding = strong potential for gum disease to develop
Plaque will develop in these pockets. Due to the deeper depths, the patient is not able to clean with just brushing and flossing. This patient may need a professional cleanings in addition to twice yearly regular cleanings.
3-5mm pockets with bleeding = early to moderate gum disease, also known as periodontal disease
These pockets require additional gum therapy treatments, as well as more frequent cleaning appointments.
4-6mm pockets with bleeding = bone loss and damage to the gums
This requires gum therapy treatments to save the teeth. Patient will need to see hygienist every 3 to 4 months.
7mm and above pockets = Advanced Periodontal disease
At this stage, aggressive treatment is needed to prevent tooth loss, although in some cases, tooth loss may be the only treatment available. We may also refer this patient to a periodontist, which is a dentist that specializes in gum disease.
A dental x-ray is an important part of a gum disease assessment. X-rays are not just used to check for decay.
We use x-rays to see bone loss and hard deposits of calculus (hardened plaque) below the gum line. This enables us to determine the severity of gum disease.
After the hygienist completes your periodontal exam, she will go over the risk factors, clinical exam, probing and x-rays with you and your dentist.
Together you will develop a plan that will protect your teeth and lead to better dental health.
Debbie Bennett, RDH has years of experience in diagnosing and treating gum disease. Contact Debbie at Cranford Dental if you have questions about your teeth or gums.