No more poking at Your Dentist

New technology accurately measures periodontal pockets

When gum disease moves from gingivitis to periodontitis, pockets will form along the gum line. They will pull away from your teeth and bacteria will multiply in them. When this happens, a periodontist will measure the depth of the pocket with a thin ruler. Now there is a new non-invasive way to measure the depth of these periodontal pockets.

Why the Pockets Are Measured

In order to determine the extent of damage to the teeth, gums, and jawbone, the pockets are measured with a periodontal probe for their depth. The deeper the pockets are, the more extensive the damage. There are four stages of gum disease, and knowing the depth of the pockets also helps to determine the type of periodontal treatment the individual needs.

The New Model

Researchers have now developed a new way to determine the depth of periodontal pockets. The good news is that it is non-invasive and provides a more accurate measurement of depth. The method is called photoacoustic imaging, which is basically ultrasound.

The accuracy of this form of testing was performed on swine. Each of the pockets was first measured with the traditional probe. This enabled a comparison to be made for accuracy.

A dye was applied before scanning the pockets of the swine. The photoacoustic scan was then applied and it was discovered that it was even more accurate than the probe – which is considered the gold standard of measuring periodontal pockets.  

The Advantage of Photoacoustics

The accuracy of pocket depth measurement from the photoacoustics enabled a better measurement. It is better because it enabled the periodontist to understand the depth of the pocket all around the tooth, and not just at one or two points of it.

The image generated by the scanner is also very clear, but that depends on how well the tissue absorbs the contrasting solution. A picture can also be rendered in 3-D by using the standard ultrasound mode. This method also enables precise measurements to be made of the thickness of the gum tissue around any tooth.

The Conclusion of the Experiment

Once the experiment had been concluded, the researchers came to the conclusion that photoacoustics can be used to provide accurate measurements of periodontal pockets. This was the first time this type of testing had been performed and it was successful. As this type of testing is made available in the future, it will have special algorithms designed to gather and compile the data in a readily available form.

The Stages of Gum Disease

There are four stages of gum disease. They range from mild to severe.

  • Gingivitis – This is the mild form of gum disease. Most people think little of it and may not recognize that it is the beginning of what could become a much more serious problem. Pocket depth ranges between 2-4 mm. Symptoms include bleeding of the gums after brushing or flossing, and they will likely be red or inflamed. Generally, the only gum treatment needed to remove it is brushing twice a day and flossing.

  • Mild Periodontitis – This is the next stage of gum disease. Plaque, the film that forms on your teeth from bacteria, gets below the gum line and begins to cause an inflammatory reaction. The immune response attacks the gums, the structures that support the teeth, and the jawbone. Pockets in this stage are 4-5 mm. Periodontal disease treatment at this stage is scaling and root planing.

  • Moderate Periodontitis – In this stage, the pockets become deeper – 5-7 mm – and more tissue is destroyed. Gums recede further and spaces develop between teeth. Teeth start to become loose and some may need to be extracted. Scaling and root planing are the normal treatment but it may include other treatments as well.

  • Severe Periodontitis – The pockets continue to deepen to more than 8 mm and more. Gums continue receding even more, more teeth become loose and some may even fall out. Procedures likely include surgery to replace lost tissue. It may be necessary to remove all teeth.

Periodontal Disease Is Often Painless

As periodontal disease progresses, many people never notice its advancement until teeth start to become loose. As much as 75 percent of all adult tooth loss today is a result of this disease.

Periodontal Disease Cure

The bacteria that cause gum disease must be removed before any healing can take place. Unless it is removed, the damage continues to get worse and all teeth may be lost. Methods used to remove the bacteria from the pockets include medications, flap surgery, and laser treatment. The treatment can successfully remove the bacteria, but lost or damaged gums and teeth will need replacing.

In some cases, periodontal disease may advance aggressively – and unpredictably. To lessen the damage, treatment should be obtained as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more expensive the treatment becomes.

Keeping our teeth clean with brushing and flossing can help you avoid periodontitis. Regular visits to the dentist for dental cleaning will also help.

If you need gum disease treatment and live in the Carrollton, TX or Grapevine, TX areas, you can get it from Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist. He also performs cosmetic dentistry to help restore your teeth and smile. For more information about his dental services, or to set up an appointment, you can call his office today at (817) 756-8578.