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.

50% of Americans have this disease

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study in 2009 and 2010 that measured the prevalence of periodontitis, familiarly known as gum disease, in American adults. The study CDCestimates that 47.2%, or 64.7 million American adults, have mild, moderate or severe gum disease. For adults over the age of 65, rates increase to 70.1%.

Conclusion: Nearly half of American adults have gum disease.

How can gum disease affect you?
Gum disease can do irreversible damage if not treated and maintained. The plaque that that builds up between teeth and gums creates pockets that bacteria can get into, causing an infection in the gums. The infection can damage the bone and periodontal ligaments (PDL) that hold teeth in place and gums may begin to pull away from teeth. At the advanced stage of gum disease, teeth begin to shift, loosen and fall out because the PDL and bone that usually support the teeth are destroyed.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?Gum Disease

  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, or tender
  • Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Pus that appears between your teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

At every check-up and cleaning, the hygienist and doctor measures the bone level and inspects gums for any pus, bleeding or inflammation.

How is gum disease treated?
The doctor or hygienist recommends a deep-cleaning to patients with gum disease. The hygienist scales the teeth by cleaning off the plaque above and below the gum surface and root planing which smoothes out the rough layers of the teeth. For two weeks after a deep cleaning, chlorhexidine mouth wash is used to kill bacteria so sensitive gums will heal. If you have been diagnosed with gum disease it is important to follow the recommendations of your hygienist. She may recommend one to two additional cleanings per year.

shutterstock_2243118-(Medium)-732845Prevent gum disease from affecting you.

  • There are simple steps that you can take to avoid developing gum disease.
  • Brush and clean between teeth with floss
  • Eat a well balanced diet and avoid sugary snacks

Get regular check-ups and cleanings. They are the best way to discover and treat early gum disease before it leads to a more serious problem.

Do you still have questions about gum disease? Contact our Sacramento Dentist.