What Does a Comprehensive Periodontal Exam Look Like?

Man getting dental work. Caption: Thorough exams are a vital part of managing gum disease.

A comprehensive periodontal exam is a crucial aspect of oral health assessment that goes beyond a routine dental checkup. This is especially true when gum disease or periodontal disease is present. It involves a detailed examination of various aspects of the periodontium, which includes the gums, supporting bone, and other structures around the teeth. In this post, we will explore the key components of a comprehensive periodontal exam; the importance of full-mouth periodontal charting, plaque and calculus assessment, gingival health, bone height, mobility, and furcation involvement.

Full-Mouth Periodontal Charting

One of the fundamental elements of a comprehensive periodontal exam is full-mouth periodontal charting. This involves systematically recording measurements of the spaces between the teeth and gums (periodontal pockets) using a periodontal probe. The measurements help determine the depth of the pockets, indicating the health of the supporting structures around each tooth. In a healthy mouth, these pockets are shallow, but deeper pockets may suggest the presence of gum disease.

Plaque and Calculus Assessment

Assessing the presence, degree, and distribution of plaque and calculus is another crucial aspect of the exam. Plaque is a soft, sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth, while calculus (tartar) is hardened plaque. We will evaluate the extent of plaque and calculus buildup, as excessive accumulation can contribute to gum disease and other oral health issues.

Gingival Health/Disease

The state of gingival health is a key indicator of overall oral health. During the comprehensive periodontal exam, we will evaluate the color, texture, and contour of the gums. Healthy gums are typically pink, firm, and tightly attached to the teeth. Signs of gingival disease may include redness, swelling, bleeding, and tenderness. Identifying these signs early is crucial for preventing the progression of gum disease.

Bone Height/Bone Loss

Assessing the bone height around the teeth is essential for evaluating the extent of bone loss, a common consequence of advanced periodontal disease. X-rays may be taken to provide a detailed view of the supporting bone structures. Monitoring changes in bone height over time helps in assessing the progression of periodontal disease and planning appropriate treatment.

Mobility and Fremitus

To assess the stability of teeth, we will check for mobility and fremitus. Mobility refers to the degree of movement of a tooth within its socket. Fremitus is the vibration felt when a tooth comes into contact with another tooth during biting or chewing. Increased mobility or fremitus can be indicative of underlying issues such as bone loss or gum disease.

Presence, Location, and Extent of Furcation Involvement

Furcations are the areas where two or more roots of a tooth meet. Examination for furcation involvement is crucial as it can impact the prognosis and treatment approach. We will assess whether there is any loss of supporting structures in these areas, which can occur in advanced cases of periodontal disease.

Putting It Together

A comprehensive periodontal exam is a detailed and systematic assessment of various aspects of oral health. From full-mouth periodontal charting to evaluating plaque and calculus, each component plays a vital role in understanding and managing periodontal conditions. Regular comprehensive exams are essential for early detection and intervention. Exams also promote optimal oral health and prevent the progression of periodontal disease. To schedule an exam, please contact Dental Partners of Boston today.

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