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Periodontal Disease Diagnosis

Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist at your initial appointment or during a routine cleaning appointment.

A periodontal probe (a small dental “ruler”) is gently used to measure the spaces between your teeth and gums.  The depth of a healthy “sulcus” is usually 3mm or less. As the numbers increase, it indicates that you are losing bone around the teeth, so those pockets we are measuring are increasing. 

Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:


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.


Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar).  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 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.

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