There might be part of your regular dental check-ups that you didn’t even know about – the periodontal exam. If you’ve ever overheard your dentist or hygienist charting the findings in this exam, it sounded like a list of numbers like 3, 2, 3, 3, 3, 5, etc. Have you ever asked to find out what they mean, or why it’s such an important part of your routine dental care?
The periodontal exam is the part of your check-up that assesses whether or not you have periodontal disease (gum disease.) A small, smooth-tipped probe is placed under the gumlines to see how deep the “pocket” is around 6 different surfaces of each tooth. The bottom of the pocket indicates where the gum levels are attached, as well as whether or not there is associated bone loss in deep areas.
A healthy, disease-free pocket is any area that is 3mm or shallower. Periodontal pockets that are deeper than 3mm indicate that infection has caused the tissue to detach from the tooth. If moderate to severe pocketing is present, it’s impossible to keep your teeth free of disease with simple brushing and flossing. It also means that there is less security when it comes to keeping your teeth in place. Teeth then become mobile due to structural loss, and can even fall out.
Thankfully, routine periodontal exams can help identify areas of concern when they are as small as possible. This provides patients and their dentist with an opportunity to re-vamp oral hygiene skills and treat the area as needed. It is possible to achieve re-attachment of gum tissue, but it isn’t possible to get bone to grow back on its own. If you’ve never heard your hygienist call out these numbers, it’s time to ask about having a periodontal exam at your next check-up!
Posted on behalf of Dr. David Janash, Park South Dentistry
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