Katie Moynihan-Sias, BS RDH
During your routine dental hygiene visits, your hygienist will perform an assessment called periodontal probing. Periodontal means to surround or encase a tooth. This assessment is used to determine the health of your gums and supporting structures. A periodontal probe is used to determine how deep the pockets are around your teeth. This probe consists of millimeter increment markings that allows the hygienist to measure the space between the tooth and the gums. As the hygienist performs this assessment, each millimeter measurement is documented with its correlating tooth. These measurements, along with x-rays and other assessments taken throughout the appointment, allow the dentist and hygienist to accurately recommend a proper cleaning for you.
Here is a breakdown of what each number means:
Pocket depths 1-3mm: tissues are in health with no bone loss present. Usually gums are firm and light pink in color with no bleeding upon probing.
Pocket depths 4mm: gingivitis is present but no bone loss. Usually the gums are red and inflamed with light-moderate bleeding present.
Pocket depths 5+mm: periodontitis is present with bone loss visible on x-rays. Periodontal disease can be classified as mild to advanced. Usually the gums are severely inflamed and painful, bleed easily, and tooth mobility can occur. Mild periodontitis is present with 4-5mm probe depths. Moderate periodontitis is present with 5-6mm probe depths. Advanced periodontitis is present with >6mm probe depths.
Once your hygienist performs a complete periodontal assessment of your mouth, he or she will inform you of your periodontal health. The dentist and hygienist will review all clinical assessments before recommending a proper cleaning. A “regular” cleaning may not be suitable for everyone. Once a patient presents with signs of periodontal disease, non-surgical periodontal therapy, such as scaling and root planning (a deep cleaning), will be recommended to properly treat the active disease. For more information on that please visit Non-Surgical Periodontal Therapy. In signs of advanced periodontitis, a referral to a Periodontist may be recommended for further evaluation and treatment.
The next time you are in for a cleaning, ask your hygienist for a report of your latest periodontal probings! As always, routine dental cleanings and proper homecare is recommended to keep your mouth happy and healthy!
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