Your initial exam, ...
 
- Your initial exam...
- Periodontal disease...
- Digital radiography...
- Caring for your gums...
- New technologies...
- Crown front lengthening...
- Broken front tooth...
- What are porcelain veneers...
 
Diagnosing periodontal disease
You may have periodontal (gum) disease and not even realize it. That's because periodontal disease is usually not painful, especially in its early stages. To check for signs and symptoms of periodontal disease, we perform a thorough periodontal examination.

Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums, caused by the bacteria in plaque. When your gums are healthy, they fit tightly against your teeth. If you have periodontal disease, your gums pull away from your teeth in response to the infection.


We check bone levels

In a healthy mouth, the space between your teeth and gums (called a sulcus) is one to two millimeters deep. When you have periodontal disease, the sulcus deepens and eventually exceeds three millimeters; it's then called a pocket. In general, the deeper the pockets, the greater the spread of periodontal disease. During your examination, we use a special instrument with millimeter markings (called a periodontal probe) to measure the sulcus or pocket depths around your teeth.

We also carefully note any bleeding as we take your periodontal measurements. Gums that bleed when probed (as well as when you brush and floss) are another sign of periodontal disease; healthy gums don't bleed. We'll also note the color and texture of your gums. Healthy gums are pink and have a stippled appearance, similar to the skin of an orange. Swollen gums lose this stippled appearance.


Measuring pocket depth

Finally, we'll take x-rays of your mouth to establish whether there has been bone loss around your teeth—another indicator of periodontal disease. If your mouth is healthy, the bone comes up high around the necks of your teeth. With periodontal disease, bone is lost. The longer it goes untreated, the more bone is lost. Once bone is lost, it never grows back. That's why it's critical to diagnose and treat periodontal disease early—to prevent continued bone loss and the eventual loss of teeth.

Diagnosing decay (cavities)
The two main ways we diagnose cavities are through the use of x-rays and an instrument called a dental explorer. We systematically and thoroughly check every surface of your teeth with the dental explorer; it will catch or stick in the spots created by cavities. X-rays are used to find cavities between the teeth where the explorer can't reach. Cavities show up as small dark spots on x-rays.

It's far better to catch and restore cavities while they're still small and in the outer enamel layer of the tooth. Once they're in the softer dentin layer, they grow much more rapidly. If they make it to the pulp chamber, we will have a new, more complicated set of problems and restorations to discuss.


Decay spreads if not treated
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