The gingival index is used in dental care to evaluate the extent of gum disease. A dental professional uses visual analysis to rate the gingival tissue surrounding each tooth on a scale of one to four, with four representing significant periodontal disease. This index can help dentists create a care plan for patients and explain the extent of gingival disease in an understandable manner. It can also be used to track the progress of dental treatment over time.
The gum tissue is probed with dental instruments to determine the extent of gingival bleeding. While some bleeding is typical during dental exams, significant bleeding can be indicative of gum disease. The dentist also takes into account the color and firmness of the gums. Red or purple gums indicate periodontal disease. Tender, soft gums can also be a sign of gingivitis.
While the gingival index uses a scale from one to four, the difference between a rating of one and two and three and four is not the same. This makes the index somewhat subjective, and given values may vary slightly from professional to professional. The same dentist should perform the analysis during subsequent dental visits to ensure reliability.
The numbers from each gingival pocket can be averaged together to give an overall representation of gingival health. Many dentists use the gingival index at the beginning of a patient's first visit to get a concrete overview of that person's dental health and to provide a baseline for comparison during future visits. Analysis typically lasts approximately five minutes.
Each rating in the gingival index describes a particular state of gum health. A rating of one represents normal gums without any bleeding after probing or discoloration, while two indicates minor change in gum color and minor inflammation, but the absence of bleeding. Three represents moderate redness, swelling, and bleeding during probing. Four indicates moderate to severe inflammation and bleeding without pressure, significant color change to deep red or purple, severe inflammation, and possible ulceration.
Gingivitis, or gum disease, is a very common dental problem and has many causes. Signs of gingival disease include bleeding gums with daily brushing, red or purple gingiva, gum swelling, tenderness, and sores in the mouth. Known causes of gingivitis include diabetes, poor oral hygiene practices, illness, and pregnancy. It is possible to reverse or reduce the severity of periodontal disease. Regular, thorough dental cleanings, at-home flossing, mouthwash use and the realignment of teeth can all help to treat gingivitis.