Periodontal Disease: The Warning Signs
You may wonder when is the right time to refer your patient to a periodontist. There are specific warning signs that indicate the presence of periodontal disease, or gum disease.
Non-invasive periodontal treatment may no longer be effective if bleeding occurs. Uncontrollable bleeding is the first sign to refer the patient to a periodontist.
How to Detect Periodontal Disease
The probe is the number one instrument used to monitor changes in periodontal health. An increase in probing depth often indicates that the disease cannot be controlled in office. That would be the second indication to refer a patient.
Radiographs are also used to determine when a periodontist is needed, but they are not taken as often, so changes there may not be seen for two to five years.
Standard probing depth reading is 3mm. When it hits 4mm this becomes a warning zone. When it increases to 5mm, to 7mm and higher, a patient needs an immediate referral. This is a sign that there is no longer health in the pocket of the gum tissue.
Evaluate the Patient
When you are thinking about referring your patient to a periodontist, how often you are seeing that patient is a contributing factor. If you are seeing the patient every three months, then you know that you can monitor the situation and reevaluate them again three months later. However, you are only seeing the patient once or twice a year, then that may be a time to be more assertive in your treatment plan. In the case of a patient who visits every three months – and there is no visible improvement – you should ask, “What is the next step?” If there is improvement, then we reevaluate the case at the next hygiene visit. If their condition stays the same, an ideal treatment plan is as simple as telling the patient to increase the frequency of their dental hygiene visits.
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