Periodontal Basics

Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during routine check-ups at our office.

A periodontal probe (small dental instrument) is gently used to measure the space (called a sulcus) 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 radiographic bone loss to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:


Simply put, gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It is the initial stage of gum disease and the easiest to treat. The direct cause of gingivitis is plaque – the soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms constantly on the teeth and gums.


Periodontitis means “inflammation around the tooth.” It is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports the tooth. Untreated periodontitis will eventually result in tooth loss, and may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems.