Gum Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment


Gingivitis and Periodontal disease are easily detectable though the processes of periodontal charting. Periodontal charting is done by a dentist, periodontist or dental hygienist. Periodontal charting primarily consists of probing (measuring) how tightly the gums are attached to the teeth. Healthy gums will have a measurement of 1-3 millimeters. Readings of 4 millimeters or higher may indicate the presence of periodontal disease. During periodontal charting, gum recession is noted as well as inflammation, tooth mobility (loose teeth), bleeding or pus.

 

What are the risk factors for gum disease?

Your dentist or hygienist will also discuss your risk factors. These may include:

  • lack of proper home care (flossing and brushing)

  • long periods between dental visits

  • family history

  • tobacco use

  • medications

  • stress

  • overall health

  • age

 

What are the stages of gum disease?

There are different stages of periodontal disease and your recommended treatment may vary based on the stage of periodontal disease diagnosed by your dental provider.

Gingivitis is the beginning of periodontal disease and the only stage that can be reversed. It is treated by both dental cleanings and routine at home care. Signs of gingivitis may include slight sensitivity or soreness as well as bleeding when brushing and flossing. It is important to note that even gums that measure in the “healthy range” of 1-3 millimeters may still show signs of gingivitis. Your diagnosis is not based solely on numbers. The amount of plaque or tartar, bleeding, and the visual appearance of the gums also contribute to your diagnosis.

Periodontal disease (Periodontitis) is the progression of gingivitis. The bacteria that remain in the mouth and on the surface of the teeth have migrated below the gum and have begun to destroy the tissue and bone that support the teeth. The gums separate from the teeth and bone loss may begin. Periodontal charting may show measurements of 4 millimeters or higher. Bleeding and recession may also be present. Because bacteria are present below the gum line, a “regular” dental cleaning (prophylaxis) that cleans the surface of the teeth is not enough to treat the disease. Scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) may be recommended by your provider to remove the bacteria below the gums. Antibiotics may also be used in combination with scaling and root planning.

More advanced or aggressive forms of periodontal disease are the most difficult to treat. At this stage, the signs and symptoms are easily noticed. These include bleeding or pus, difficulty or pain when eating, tooth mobility, gum recession and severe bone loss visible on an x-ray. Your provider may recommend gum surgery to try to preserve your teeth. Teeth that may not respond to treatment may be recommended for extraction.

Studies have shown that up to 80% of the population has some form of periodontal disease present at any given time. The only way to prevent or treat the disease is to see your dental provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Please call us at 203-377-9300 to schedule an appointment.