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.

Brushing is NOT Enough

Simply said, oral hygiene consists of a lot more than just brushing your teeth. Don't Brush Too HardBrushing is not enough to prevent tooth decay and bad breath because your tooth brush is not able to get into the hard-to-reach areas where plaque and bacteria form.  Flossing and rinsing are an essential part of taking care of your teeth from home along with seeing your dentist for regular check-ups.

Every time a person eats the bacterium that is on your teeth with break down your food and creates an acidic environment. The result is a loss of tooth minerals that could result in a cavity.

You may ask, how can I help with the loss of teeth minerals? The best strategy would be to brush and floss immediately after you eat and drink.  However, we know many people are not able to do that.  The conclusion is that most people brush in the morning and at night and maybe floss…sometimes. (Not doing this? HOLD THE PHONE and check this out!)

Steps to brushing your teeth correctly:Periodontics: How to Brush Teeth

  1.  Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
  2.  Make small circles in short strokes.
  3.  Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  4. Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
  5. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and to freshen your breath.

Steps to flossing your teeth correctly:

  1.   Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind it around the middle fingers of each hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
  2. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
  3. When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
  4. Bring the floss back toward the contact point between the teeth and move the floss up or down the other side, conforming the floss to the shape of the tooth.
  5. Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up-and-down motions.
  6. Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.

Still, this may not be enough. Many of our patients have great oral hygiene but still develop cavities because they may be at risk for tooth decay. To determine why you are prone to getting cavities, please request an appointment at your dentist for an assessment.

Do You Really Want to Keep your Teeth? Deep Cleaning Explained.

Sacramento DentistOn a recent trip back to visit family I encountered my kooky Great Aunt, let’s just call her Ivy. Ivy is an all-round entertaining lady. She could keep you talking for hours and comes up with some of the most ridiculous things. Upon telling her that I work for a dentist she blurts out, “You don’t work for 1-800-Dentist, do you!?”

Well, no, we are not affiliated with them but I was curious what caused her outburst. Upon further examination she said that recently her and her husband went to the dentist and “would you buh-lieve they wanted $250 for a cleaning, per quadrant!?” I don’t need to tell you the conversation that ensued that ended in Aunt Ivy refuting everything I said with, “I DON’T GET PLAQUE ON MY TEETH!” An odd statement considering that every single person on the planet has plaque on their teeth. Oh, Aunt Ivy.

When plaque gets under the gums where you can’t see it and can’t clean it you start to get irritation and bleeding in your gums. This is the early stages of gingivitis. When you have gingivitis your hygienist will want to give you a deep cleaning. They might also want you to use a wash called Chlorohexidine. Three out of four adults have some form of gum disease.Sacramento Dentist

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Your body is working feverishly to clean your teeth and the interaction between the food and the saliva creates bacteria and acid. If nothing is done about this it can begin to erode your bone structure. The acid begins to drip down your teeth and starts to eat away at the bone that is holding on to your teeth. Acid. Pretty nasty stuff. It eats through everything, including bone.

Here’s the tricky part, until someone’s condition get very bad they have virtually no symptoms. If gum disease is caught in time it can be stopped and steps can be taken to improve your condition. But, sadly, bone loss is irreversible.

In addition to keeping your teeth from falling out, or getting loose, a deep cleaning will help permanent crowns and bridges adhere to your teeth and last longer. It might help take care of that bad breath, too.

A deep cleaning will take approximately three hours where as a regular cleaning without x-rays will only take about 50 minutes. You are numbed with anesthetic and the hygienist cleans off the roots of the tooth.

I know what you are thinking. You brush your teeth every day, you’ve never had a cavity, you floss every now and then and maybe you even believe that you don’t get plaque on your teeth. Good for you! But that doesn’t mean you can skip your regular teeth cleanings every six months. Hygienists have special tools that get heavy plaque off of your teeth. They also have the ability to see and reach things that you cannot.

Sacramento Dentist

Real Gateway Dental patient who received a deep cleaning. The patient was experiencing bleeding when brushing and flossing and had deep pockets of 5-6 millimeters (1-3 millimeters is great, anything more than 4 should require immediate attention).

The biggest mistake a patient can make is to not maintain a good hygiene program with the hygienist following the deep cleaning. After the cleaning your hygienist will want to see you three months later to clean the teeth again. More often than not it isn’t covered by insurance which is why many patients do not keep up on it. But, coming back every three months for a year will restore your gums to their better condition, will close the deep pockets created by the bacteria, and will help reduce the amount of bacteria that can get in there again.

If you were told you needed a deep cleaning, do not wait. Aunt Ivy will be sorry.

You can call 916-649-0249 if you have more questions and we’ll be happy to help you.

I Hate Flossing! Part I

A former flossing procrastinator turn floss advocate; why to floss, how to floss, and the dangers of not flossing.

sacramento dentist_flossing

Specks of food on the bathroom mirror, the gums are bleeding and it hurts, those dang molars are hard to get to, your hands can’t fit in your mouth, the list goes on. Tell me I didn’t list at least one reason why you don’t floss.

Here’s a little note: people go to college for years to learn how to prevent, diagnose, and treat people who don’t floss! Yes, they are called dental hygienists and dentists.

Imagine showering but never once washing behind your ears, under your armpits, in between your toes, and even, ahem, the private areas. Kinda gross, right? That’s what it’s like when you don’t floss. Your toothbrush cannot get in between each tooth and under the gum line to get the food that has collected there. Now think about how long that food stays between your teeth before it can naturally be dissolved. You don’t know how long it will take because you don’t even know that there is food in your teeth. But there is!

I bet you are thinking that flossing does not apply to you because you go to the dentist every six months and have been since you can remember and you cannot recall the last time that you got a cavity. I know this excuse because my husband uses it every day. And he’s right; he goes to the dentist every six months for a cleaning and hasn’t had a cavity since high school.

But look back at those cleanings that you received. Was the hygienist having a hard time getting the floss between your teeth? Did you have bleeding gums? Did she overload your goodie bag with floss samples followed by a stern reminder that you won’t be so lucky at the next cleaning? Yeah… that’s because while right now your gums feel fine they can take a drastic turn.

A very painful and expensive alternative to daily flossing is a deep cleaning. Yay! Doesn’t that sound like fun!? Hardly. A deep cleaning can be extremely invasive and in some cases down-right uncomfortable. A deep cleaning is something that has to be done because there is plaque underneath the gum line. Cases range from small to severe but either way the hygienist scrapes the plaque off the root of tooth. Ouch.  I think I’ll pass.

You must choose to jump in with both feet and commit to flossing. While the dentist recommends twice a day most people just can’t do it. So, I propose that if you can only do it once a day then you must do it at night. That way your teeth are clean when you go to bed and bacteria doesn’t have a chance to grow when you are sleeping with gunk in between your teeth.

Flossing for me was painful at first and if I go a week without flossing my gums will be a little sore after I floss again. But I have the knowledge of what can happen to my teeth and pocketbook if I choose not to floss and really I’d rather save myself the trouble and just floss. I leave floss all over the house, on my nightstand, on the coffee table, by the computer, and I use it whenever I’m lounging around. I suggest you follow this advice for TEETH’s sake!