How Is Periodontitis Diagnosed and Treated
Visit your dentist regularly so that they can help you prevent periodontal disease, and, should it occur, detect it in its early stages, before the gum and bone supporting your teeth are damaged!
- During a periodontal evaluation, a periodontal probe is used to measure the spaces between the teeth and gums. In a healthy mouth, those spaces (pockets) tend to be less than 4 millimeters deep. The deeper the pockets, the more advanced the periodontal disease.
- Dental x-rays are taken to check the bone supporting the teeth. When the bone levels are low, it can be a sign of damage from periodontal disease.
- If you are then diagnosed with periodontal disease, your dentist may provide the treatment in office, or they may refer you to a Periodontist (a dentist who specializes in Periodontal Disease).
How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Periodontal treatments can vary, depending on the type of the disease and how advanced it has progressed. If caught early (when in its gingivitis stage), and no damage has been done to the supporting gums and bone around the teeth, a simple professional cleaning can be used as treatment. Your dentist can give you tips to improve your oral hygiene. Even with these measures, some patients develop more severe periodontal disease. To treat more advanced cases of periodontal disease, dentists will often schedule the patient for a deep cleaning. This deep cleaning is called "scaling and root planing." “Scaling" is the first step of this treatment, and typically involves the removal of the plaque and tartar located inside each periodontal pocket. This may have to be done over a course of several visits, depending on your needs. The second step of this treatment is called "planing". Planing occurs when the dentist or hygienist smooths out the root surfaces of the teeth, in order to allow the gum tissue to begin healing, so it can then reattach to the teeth. To help control the infection, pain, or to aid in the healing process, you can ask your dentist about medication options. These medications may include a special mouth rinse, or a medication that the dentist or hygienist will place directly into the periodontal pockets, after scaling and root planing. A follow up visit is recommended within a few weeks or months after treatment is complete. During the visit, the dentist or hygienist will examine your gums to make sure everything is healing well. After your gums are examined, the periodontal pockets will be measured once more. If the pockets have not improved enough, or have grown deeper and the supporting bone is further lost, the dentist will schedule more treatment.
Care After Treatment
Once you have completed your periodontal treatment, it is recommended that you schedule checkups and cleanings more frequently. Regular dental visits will help to keep periodontal disease under control. Some cases may require appointments to alternate between your dentist and your periodontist.
Oral Hygiene at Home
To help prevent periodontal disease from becoming more serious or returning outside of the dental office, you can practice good oral hygiene at home. Cleaning at home twice a day helps keep plaque under control and reduces tartar buildup.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss your teeth (or use any between-the-teeth cleaner) once a day.
You don’t have to lose your teeth to periodontal disease! Brushing, flossing, eating healthy, and visiting your dentist regularly can help you to enjoy them for a lifetime!