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 and the gums. The depth of a healthy sulcus measures three millimeters or less and 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, and bone levels, to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:


Gingivitis is the earliest form of periodontal disease. The bacteria and toxins that live in the biofilm (plaque) cause the gums to become red, swollen and bleed easily. There may be some discomfort at this stage but it is typically little to none. Gingivitis is usually caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Other contributing factors to gingivitis include diabetes, pregnancy, stress, hormonal fluctuations and certain medications.

Gingivitis can typically be easily reversed with a professional dental cleaning followed by good homecare habits and regular dental health visits. The interval for dental health visits for a person with gingivitis is usually every 4 to 6 months and will be determined for your based on homecare habits, your body’s response to bacterial toxins and additional factors such as pregnancy or orthodontic appliances.

Periodontal Disease (Periodontitis)

Over time, untreated gingivitis may advance to periodontal disease. The biofilm (plaque) spreads below the gumline and the toxins produces within the biofilm irritate the gums. This in turn stimulates an inflammatory response in the body and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down. As the disease progresses, the pockets become deeper and more gum tissues and bone are destroyed. Most of the time, periodontal disease is NOT painful. If left untreated, periodontal disease will likely lead to loss of teeth as more and more bone and tissue is destroyed.