How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed? If you schedule regular dental exams, your dentist can catch
periodontal disease before the gums and the bone supporting your teeth are severely damaged.
During a periodontal evaluation, the dentist or hygienist used a periodontal probe to gently measure the
spaces between the teeth and gums. In a healthy mouth, this space (pocket) is usually less than three
millimeters deep. Very deep pockets are a sign of advanced periodontal disease.
Dental x-rays usually are taken to check the bone supporting the teeth. Low bone levels can be a sign of
damage from periodontal disease.
If periodontal disease is diagnosed, your dentist may provide treatment or may refer you to a
periodontist (a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of periodontal
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Periodontal treatments depend on the type of the disease and how severe it is. If the disease is caught
early (when it is gingivitis), and no damage has been done to the supporting structures under the teeth,
you may simply need a professional cleaning. The dental team can give you tips for improving your daily
Even with these measures, some patients develop more severe periodontal disease. The first step in
treating the disease usually involves a special deep cleaning called “scaling and root planing” In this
treatment the dentist removes plaque and tartar down the bottom of each periodontal pocket. This
treatment may be done over several visits, depending on your needs. The root surfaces of the teeth are
then smoothed (or “planed”) to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the teeth. This treatment
also may take more than one visit.