How is periodontitis diagnosed?

Periodontal disease can be diagnosed by your general dentist or a periodontist. This is usually accomplished by taking a full series of x-rays that show the bone level around each individual tooth. This combined with a series of measurements around each tooth will provide a periodontal diagnosis.

During an exam, your dentist will check your gums for bleeding, and examine your teeth for plaque build-up. Your dentist will also measure your gums, to check for gum loss. X-rays may also be taken to determine the extent of bone loss.

Dentists diagnose a gum disease called periodontitis based on a list of symptoms and a dental exam of the mouth and teeth. During the exam the dentist checks for excessive plaque and tartar on the teeth and any unusual gum bleeding.

Your dentist may also use a metal tool to measure the space between your gums and teeth, which will give him or her an idea of the severity of the condition. If left untreated, periodontitis can destroy the bone and tissue support system for your teeth.
Steven Bradway
The diagnostic criteria used to recognize periodontitis are attachment loss and bone loss of the tooth. “Epithelial attachment” is where the gum tissue connects to the tooth. Attachment loss occurs when the epithelial attachment connection begins moving down the tooth. When the bone level starts to move down the tooth, bone loss occurs. There are other conditions that can produce bone and attachment loss. When making a diagnosis, it is necessary for the Doctor to eliminate the possibility that what they are seeing is not another condition.

Periodontitis almost never causes pain, so patients seldom know that they have it until it is discovered during a routine dental examination. Eighty percent of patients with periodontitis do not experience bone loss until their mid-thirties, but bone loss can begin earlier if they have specific habits or systemic conditions. It is important to differentiate these patients from the other twenty percent of that have more aggressive types of periodontitis that causes rapid bone loss and tooth loss at a much earlier age. The diagnostic accuracy for periodontitis in dentistry as a whole is improving. As a result, the rate of tooth loss to periodontitis is dropping dramatically.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.