An examination for gum disease is part of your regular dental checkup. Your dentist or hygienist will look for signs of periodontal disease using a small dental instrument, or probe, to measure the pocket or space between the teeth and gums. As periodontal disease progresses the pocket gets deeper. During your exam we will measure the depth of each pocket, the amount of bleeding that occurs while cleaning your teeth, look for any gum inflammation and other signs of periodontal disease. Gingivitis — The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. Plaque and its by-products irritate the gums making them tender, inflamed and likely to bleed. Increasing professional cleaning and improving daily oral hygiene habits can often correct this problem. Periodontitis — As plaque hardens into calculus, or tarter, gums begin to recede from the teeth. In this second state of periodontal disease deeper pockets are formed which fill with bacteria. Gums become very irritated and bleed easily. You may experience moderate bone loss. A more aggressive treatment program will be recommended that may include scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning of gums and teeth. Advanced Periodontitis — This third state of gum disease produces significant destruction to gums, bone and periodontal ligament. Moderate to severe bone loss may be present. Patients are often referred to a periodontist who specializes in the treatment of gum and supporting bone diseases. Periodontal disease can be prevented. With regular checkups and excellent daily oral hygiene habits, you can maintain a healthy smile. Prevention is the best way to avoid the pain and cost of gum disease.