What Happens During a Periodontal Exam?
What happens during a Periodontal Exam should be pretty standard in dental offices. First of all you should know that a periodontal exam means an evaluation of the supporting structures of the teeth including the gums and jawbone. This type of examination is usually done as part of a complete exam by your dentist. A Periodontal Exam may also happen separately from your dental exam when there is evidence that you have gingivitis aka gum disease or bone loss aka periodontal disease. Periodontitis is active periodontal disease.
Following a Periodontal Exam you should receive a periodontal diagnosis to let you know your current gingival and periodontal health and what is any treatment should be completed.
Periodontal therapy to treat periodontal disease should come after a thorough exam and diagnosis of your current periodontal and dental health. This comprehensive periodontal exam must include the following:
- X-rays showing the existing bone around every tooth.
- Careful measuring around every tooth to check for pockets, recession, tartar, bleeding and infection. This can be completed by a dentist or a qualified dental hygienist.
- A thorough dental examination of the teeth (this must be done by a dentist) for any problem areas. Gaps, loose teeth, broken fillings or teeth, and rough restorations might be contributing to the difficulty in your ability to keep the area clean.
- Each tooth should be tested for tooth mobility, or food impaction.
- An evaluation of your TMJ or jaw joint.
- An evaluation of the chewing muscles.
- A complete soft tissue and oral cancer exam.
The hygienists most important duty is to diagnose periodontal disease and provide the appropriate treatment. The dentist or dental hygienist will use a periodontal probe which is a blunt instrument that has markings to indicate depth measurements to evaluate the pocket depth between your teeth and gums. This is the area where some of the most dangerous bacteria (in terms of gum infections) hang out. Probing around the teeth should not result in bleeding or discomfort just as running the instrument across the back of your hand should not result in bleeding or soreness.
Should we treat or “watch” Periodontal Disease?
Of course we let our patients decide what treatment they would like to complete once they have all the needed information. Also, we let our patients know consequences on no treatment which is always an option! We often hear the question, “Will my insurance cover this?” Good question with a complicated answer for another blog! Periodontal Therapy as defined by dental insurance ‘involves instrumentation of the crown and root surfaces of the teeth to remove plaque and calculus from these surfaces. It is indicated for patients with periodontal disease and is therapeutic, not prophylactic, in nature.’ So it is only right that we preform proper treatment and treat the disease with full consent of our patients. The fact is that when disease is present, it should be treated!
When bleeding gums are present, research shows that dangerous bacteria that live in your mouth enter your blood stream and travel through your body putting you at risk for a number of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and even some cancers. Most people know that bad breath is a BIG issue with gum disease and periodontal disease.
Simply put, periodontal disease means the permanent loss of your jawbone. You cannot have periodontal disease without permanent bone loss. No one wants that! Note here that gum disease or gingivitis is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria.
You can have gum disease without having periodontal disease.
After age 30, gum disease and periodontal disease is the major reason for tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the #1 cause of adult tooth loss in the US. And we have so many great methods to treat this disease! Please call our office at (970) 242-3635 to schedule an appointment to see what your periodontal health status is.
Yours for better dental health,
Julie Gillis DDS, AAACD
Restoring Teeth/Restoring Smiles