Have you ever sat through your dental appointment and heard your dentist or hygienist calling out what seemed like hundreds of numbers as they guided an instrument around your entire mouth? Hopefully they then sat down to explain these numbers to you, because they’re one of the most important parts of your preventive care appointments.
Periodontal exams use a small, rounded probe to measure the levels of attached gum tissue on 6 different areas of each tooth: 3 on the tongue side, and 3 on the cheek/lip side. These numbers indicate where the gumlines start, and where the tissues attach to the tooth – also known as the periodontal pocket. The numbers are the depth of the pocket in that area of the tooth.
A healthy pocket is anywhere from 0-3mm deep. The deeper the pocket gets, the more tissue detachment there is. Detachment occurs when plaque is allowed to congregate along or under the gumlines without being cleaned away effectively. Simple gingivitis then becomes periodontal disease (gum disease), which also causes bone loss, tooth mobility, and the loss of teeth.
By monitoring the depth of your periodontal pockets, your dentist can identify areas of gum disease when they are least invasive and easiest to care for. Deeper areas can’t be cleaned with regular flossing at home, so additional professional care may be needed. Your hygienist can give you advice on home care products to use and may recommend more frequent cleanings to help these areas of infection to go away. If you have multiple areas of severe pocketing, your dentist will likely recommend a deep cleaning.
Posted on behalf of Dr. David Janash, Park South Dentistry
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