Patients often hear numbers – like 2, 3, or 4 – being said aloud during their dental cleanings.
What do these numbers mean?
They are real measurements of the depth of the gum pocket around each tooth – and they are important in determining the condition of your periodontal health.
The top of gum tissue does not attach directly to teeth. There is a space of pocket between the gum and the tooth before it attaches. This space or pocket gets deeper when there is gum disease. To monitor and evaluate gum health, the pocket depth must be measured, recorded, and monitored over time.
Also see: Illustrations of How a Tooth Decays
In a healthy mouth, a pocket can be anywhere from 1-3 millimeters deep. To measure a pocket, dental hygienists use a periodontal probe. The probe allows the hygienists to measure in millimeters from the top of the pocket to the bottom of the pocket. The bottom of the pocket is the area where the tissue is connected through ligaments to the root. This measurement is taken very gently and causes no damage to the delicate gum tissue.
When a tooth has periodontal disease, the tissue becomes detached past 3mm deep. Under 3mm deep a pocket is considered healthy, while 4mm or deeper it is considered unhealthy.
Common 4mm Pockets
Our hygienists report that it’s common to have 4mm pockets on the bottom, tongue-side of teeth – especially if the patient still has his or her wisdom teeth. If this happens, I recommend patients spend extra time gently brushing this area of the mouth and thoroughly flossing. The extra effort can go a long way in shoring up those deep pockets, making them 2mm or 3mm again.
Also see: Add Years to Your Life by Flossing
Periodontal pocket measurements are taken once or twice a year, or more often in patients with active or previous periodontal disease – and are recorded on your chart. This procedure is just one of many we carry out to ensure your teeth and mouth stay healthy. And the best part? It takes mere minutes and there’s no discomfort at all!