The presence of periodontal disease (pocketing around your teeth) is assessed at your first appointment and at all 6-month appointments. This is done by gently inserting a calibrated probe between your gum and tooth and determining how much room there is from where your gum is attached to your tooth to the top of the gum. Healthy gums have readings between 1-3 millimeters. As gum disease progresses, the number increases.
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. An accumulation of plaque and/or the presence of light tartar are noted in the infected area(s). Readings are in the 4mm range. The hygienist will clean those areas and show you where they are, so you can keep the condition from returning.
Periodontitis is the advancement of gingivitis. Pockets become deeper, bleeding occurs when the area(s) are touched, and bone begins to deteriorate. If left untreated, this bone loss can lead to tooth loss. Readings for periodontitis are 5mm and above. The dental hygienist will remove the deep deposits of tartar which have caused inflammation of the gum tissue. The roots are then smoothed of all tartar. Depending on the severity of the case, this may take a few appointments. Special toothbrushes, rinses, and cleaning products will be recommended to help reduce the depth of these food pockets. Patient compliance is key to controlling periodontitis. If the pockets are not reduced and stay inflamed, surgery may be necessary. It is recommended that patients with periodontitis have their teeth cleaned and checked every 3-4 months.