Gum Disease Diagnosis

Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination. This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.

A periodontal probe (small dental instrument) is gently used to measure the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth & the gums. The depth of a healthy sulcus measures three millimeters or less & does not bleed. The periodontal probe helps indicate if pockets are deeper than three millimeters. As periodontal disease progresses, the pockets usually get deeper.

Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:


Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque & its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, & likely to bleed.


Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As calculus & plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums & teeth & become filled with bacteria & pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, & bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.

Advanced Periodontitis

The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, & periodontal ligament continues to be destroyed. Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose & may be lost. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.