Checking for periodontal disease.

During your dental checkup, the dentist or hygienist examines your gums. A periodontal probe is gently used to measure the depth of the pockets surrounding each tooth. When teeth are healthy, the pocket depth is usually three millimeters or less. The periodontal probe can indicate whether you have developed any pockets and the depth of those pockets. Generally, the more severe the disease, the deeper the pocket.

Perio Probe - Healthy Gums

Healthy Gums

Perio Probe - Irritated Gums

Irritated Gums

Dental X-rays usually are taken to check the amount of bone supporting the teeth and to find other problems not visible during the clinical exam. If periodontal disease is diagnosed, the dentist may provide treatment or may refer you to a periodontist (a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases).

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Treating periodontal disease.

Periodontal treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. If the disease is caught very early (when it is gingivitis), and no damage has been done to the supporting structures under the teeth, you may simply have a professional
cleaning and be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene.

Even with these measures, some patients develop more severe periodontal disease that must be treated. The first step usually involves a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing. In this treatment, plaque and tartar are carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. Part of this procedure includes smoothing the tooth’s root surfaces to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth. This is sometimes also called “periodontal cleaning” or “deep cleaning” and may take more than one visit.

Advanced Periodontal Disease

Advanced Periodontal Disease

Severe Periodontal Disease

Severe Periodontal Disease

Your dentist also may recommend medicines to help control infection and pain, or to aid healing. These medicines could include a pill, a mouthrinse, or a substance that the dentist places directly in the periodontal pocket after scaling and root planing. Your dentist may also stress the need to stop using tobacco and to control any related systemic disease, like diabetes.

At your follow up visits, the dentist or hygienist measures the pocket depths again to check the effect of the scaling and root planing. If the disease continues to advance to the point where the periodontal pockets deepen and the supporting bone is lost, more treatment may be necessary. You may be referred to a periodontist.

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Care After Treatment.

Once your periodontal treatment is completed, your dentist may recommend more frequent checkups. Regular dental visits and deep cleanings are important to keep periodontal disease under control. In some cases, your appointments may alternate between your general dentist and a periodontist.

Good oral hygiene at home is also important to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or from coming back. It just takes a few minutes twice a day to care for your teeth and gums. Daily cleaning helps keep the plaque under control and reduces tartar buildup.

Treating Periodontal Disease

If you use tobacco, ask your dentist or physician for information about how to successfully stop the habit. Tobacco contains chemicals that can slow the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.

You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease. Brush, clean bet ween your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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