During any regular dental checkup in Phoenix, AZ, Dr. Musselman or a dental hygienist will examine your mouth for periodontal disease. They will gently use a small instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the area between your teeth and gums, known as the sulcus.
A healthy sulcus should be about 3 millimeters deep or less, and measurements are taken with the periodontal probe. The sulcus is essentially a pocket, and as periodontal disease takes effect, the pocket typically gets deeper. An unhealthy sulcus often will bleed when probed.
The first stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, occurs when plaque and the toxins it creates irritate your gums, making them sensitive, swollen and quick to bleed.
When plaque is left untreated, it hardens into calculus, or tartar. As plaque and calculus continue to build, your gums start to recede from your teeth. The sulcus becomes deeper, and those deeper pockets between your gums and teeth become full of bacteria and pus. The gums become severely irritated and inflamed, and they bleed easily. Small to significant bone loss may occur.
As periodontal disease advances, your gums, bone and periodontal ligaments erode, causing your teeth to lose support. If left untreated, your affected teeth will become looser and looser, and you stand a very real chance of losing them.