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How Does a Family Dentist Look for Gum Disease?
When gum disease is a concern, it is best to visit a family dentist for a diagnosis and treatment. Prompt treatment can help stop the problem from worsening into tooth loss or a severe oral infection. During the appointment, the family dentist will evaluate the condition of the gums to know if gum disease is present and the severity of the case.
Diagnosing gum disease
The following are diagnostic steps that a family dentist will take to know if a patient has gum disease:
Evaluate risk factors
The family dentist will review the patient’s medical and family history. They will want to ascertain the patient’s risk of gum disease, including factors such as:
- Genetics: If gum disease runs in the family, the risks are higher.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of gum disease significantly and can even reduce the chances of successful treatment.
- General wellbeing: Patients with diabetes and other medical conditions are more prone to infections like gum disease.
- Hormonal changes in females can make the gums more sensitive and cause gingivitis.
- Medications: Some drugs tend to cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of gum disease.
The hygienist or family dentist will perform a visual check of the oral cavity for signs of inflammation, bad breath, loose teeth, dry mouth, gum recession and any other factor that might indicate a form of gum disease.
The family dentist will measure the space between gum tissues and the teeth with a probe (periodontal measurement). Gum disease can cause bleeding, swelling and tenderness of the gums. This may cause the infected gums to pull away from the teeth. Additionally, the family dentist will insert the probe into each space carefully and record the measurement of the gum pocket. Here is what each measurement depicts:
1-3mm pocket with no bleeding means healthy gums. If there is bleeding, then gingivitis is present. Professional cleaning with good oral hygiene can correct this.
3-5mm pocket with no bleeding means there is a high risk of gum disease. Plaque is bound to form in those pockets. The deep pockets can make cleaning difficult. Therefore, the patient may need professional cleaning and biannual dental checkup.
3-5mm pocket with bleeding means mild to moderate gum disease. The patient might require additional gum therapy procedures and more regular cleaning schedules.
4-6mm pocket with bleeding indicates gum damages and bone loss. Prompt treatment is necessary to save the teeth, and the patient will need to visit the dentist for cleanings every three to four months.
7mm and above is a case of advanced periodontal disease. At this stage, proactive treatment is required to prevent tooth loss, although sometimes, tooth extraction may be the only viable treatment.
A dental x-ray is a vital aspect of a gum disease diagnosis. X-rays are used to check for bone loss and deposits of tartar (hardened plaque) below the gum line. X-rays will help the family dentist assess the severity of the disease.
After the family dentist finishes with the gum examination, they will review the results with the patient. They will then develop a treatment plan to treat the condition and protect the teeth and gums from further damages.
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