Why does my Dental Hygienist or Dentist “Poke at my Gums” Every Oral Hygiene Visit?

Morgan Johnson, RDH

Why does my Dental Hygienist or Dentist “Poke at my Gums” Every Oral Hygiene Visit?

Have you ever wondered why your dental professional “pokes your gums?” Or why they call out numbers such as “2-3-3, 4-2-3” and what those numbers mean? This “poking” is actually a vital step in assessing your gum health and is called periodontal probing. Between each of your teeth and the surrounding gum tissue is a space, or gum pocket. Our instrument, called a periodontal probe, measures the depth of that pocket in millimeters (mm).

What do the pocket numbers mean?

Generally, a healthy pocket depth will range from 1-3 mm. This usually indicates healthy tissue, with no signs of inflammation or disease. Pockets of 4mm or greater can indicate potential areas of concern, including the presence of periodontal (or gum) disease. Unhealthy pocket depths can be the result of poor oral home care, which can cause inflammation, and even bone loss. Periodontal disease is also liked to various systemic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which is an additional reason to maintain a healthy mouth.

What can I do about my pockets?

After assessing your pockets, your hygienist will have recommendations on what type of cleaning would most benefit you, to either maintain your periodontal health, or help restore it if it is lost. Sometimes a “deep cleaning” may be necessary to reduce pocket depths. To maintain healthy pocket depths, or lower unhealthy ones, it is essential to be brushing for a full two minutes everyday, and flossing at least once a day. Your hygienist will also offer specific, individualized recommendations for your mouth. If you have any questions, make sure to ask your hygienist at your next check up!

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