Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination. This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.
A periodontal probe, a small dental instrument, is gently used to measure the space between the tooth and the gums. The depth of healthy gums measures three millimeters or less and does not bleed. The periodontal probe helps indicate if the space is deeper than three millimeters. As periodontal disease progresses, the space usually get deeper.
Your dentist or hygienist will use the measurements, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis on the health of your gum tissue.
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed and likely to bleed.
As plaque continues to build up it hardens into calculus, also known as tartar, and the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets of space 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.
The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone and periodontal ligament continue to be destroyed. Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and may be lost. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.