What Do the Probing Numbers Mean?

teethprobecrHave you ever been curious about what those numbers mean that your Sacramento Dentist or Hygienist calls out while looking inside your mouth. As your hygienist calls out the numbers, “4, 3,..5,2,3…4,2,5…”, they actually use a tiny ruler called a ‘probe’ to check and measure any pockets in your gums. A pocket is described as the distance between the top of the gum and where the “probe” meets bone. The smaller the pocket, the more bone that exists.

At Gateway Oaks Family Dentistry, we categorize problems as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how deep the probe goes:

  • 1-3 mm: indicates health
  • 4-5 mm: indicates a mild problem
  • 6-7 mm: indicates a moderate problem
  • 9-10 mm: indicates a severe problem

Ideally,  the depth of all your pockets should be 3 mm or less. This means that the teeth can be properly cleaned with the bristles of a toothbrush.  When a pocket measures more than 3 mm, this means that there is bone loss around that area of the tooth or that the gums are swollen, or it could be a combination of both.

We want all of our patients to get maintain picket depths between one and three millimeters to indicate healthy teeth and gums. We understand that may not always be the case, so that is why we recommend different treatment options for patients with deeper mouth pockets.

If swollen gums are causing the higher probing depth, then it can easily be reversed by brushing and flossing twice a day. Continuing to do so with tighten up your gums, stop the bleeding and the pocket measurements will be reduced. We also advise the patient to come in for regular cleanings every six  months.

For measurements that are consistently 4-5 mm, we recommend patients to come in for cleanings every three to four months, rather than six.  By having more frequent cleanings, this allows us to get into the deep pockets and clean them out using specialized equipment.

Those with measurements higher than 5 mm will require a type of gum procedure. called a “deep cleaning” or scaling and root planning to effectively reduce the deeper pockets. Once the treatment is completed, patients will be able to clean their teeth on their own — provided they return every three months for a follow-up cleaning.

So next time you are at your Sacramento Dentist, pay attention to those numbers and ask your hygiene what you can do to improve the health of your teeth.

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