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Diagnosing Periodontal Disease

Diagnosing risk or progression of periodontal disease

During your regularly scheduled dental visit, your dentist or dental hygienist will conduct a thorough periodontal examination in order to diagnose your risk or progression of periodontal disease.

A small dental instrument called a periodontal probe is used to measure the sulcus, or pockets between the teeth and gums. The sulcus should not exceed three millimeters and should not be prone to bleeding. Either of these indicators may point to the existence of periodontal disease. If allowed to progress, the sulcus pockets will deepen, inflame and can lead to shifting or missing teeth.

Based on the sulcus measurements and amount of bleeding, inflammation and tooth mobility, your periodontal disease diagnosis will be classified in one of the following categories:


Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease that starts when toxins from plaque buildup begin to irritate and inflame the gums. Individuals who are diagnosed with gingivitis may experience tender and inflamed gums, as well as some bleeding of the gums.


As plaque hardens, it becomes calculus, which can build up in the deepening sulcus pockets and cause the gums to separate from the teeth. Bacteria and pus colonize in the deep pockets, making the gums feel irritated, inflamed and bleed. Periodontitis is characterized by slight to moderate bone loss.

Advanced Periodontitis

As the gums, ligament and bone surrounding teeth are progressively destroyed and separated, teeth can become lose, shift or lost altogether. Advanced periodontitis is characterized by moderate to severe bone loss.

For questions about the stages of periodontal disease or to schedule your next appointment, contact your dentist at De Anza Dentistry.