Lindsay Whitlock RDH
John, the patient, is taken back to the dental operatory for his dental cleaning appointment. The dental hygienist reviews John’s chart, his medical history, and John addresses any concerns he has in his mouth. The hygienist lays John back in the chair. John cringes, as he sees the hygienist holding a pointy tool in her hand. She informs him, “John, I am going to take a few measurements around each tooth, to assess how healthy your gums, and bone levels are.” John opens his mouth, and thinks to himself “I wonder if this going to hurt?” “What is she even doing with that tool anyways?”
Prior to becoming a dental hygienist, I too was like John. I did not understand what that “pointy” tool was, or why it needed to be used. With this blog post, I would like to briefly educate my dental patients of what a periodontal probe is, and why it is utilized in the dental office.
That pointy tool the hygienist uses at the beginning of a dental appointment is called a periodontal probe. The periodontal probe is marked in millimeter increments, which is used to evaluate the health of the patient’s gum, and surrounding bone levels of the jaw, with little to NO discomfort!
Each of your teeth are sitting in jawbone. Additionally, each tooth is surrounded by gum tissue (gingiva). To simplify this concept, your gums surround each tooth like a turtleneck sweater.
There is a natural space of pocket between the gum and tooth. The periodontal probe is used to measure this pocket depth, at each dental appointment.
In health, the tooth is surrounded by a gum pocket depth of 1-3 mm (No bone loss of the jaw bone).
If gingivitis is present (Swollen gums-no bone loss of the jaw bone) the tooth is surrounded by a 4 mm. pocket depth.
A periodontal pocket (Mild-Advanced periodontitis) is present when the space between the tooth and gum has been deepened by disease and bone loss. A 5-12 mm pocket depth surround the tooth or teeth.
The next time you are in the dental chair, feel free to ask your dentist or dental hygienist your latest periodontal probing scores. If you have never had these measurements taken before, call our office today and schedule a new patient exam, to determine the health of your mouth!
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