Most times at your regular dental checkup your dentist or another oral health provider will measure your periodontal pockets with a dental probe. This is a blunt metal instrument that is marked with measurements allowing the dentist or hygienist to see how deep the space between your gums and your teeth–called the periodontal pocket–is. This is an important indicator of your gum health and whether you are at risk for receding gums.
What Is the Periodontal Pocket?
The periodontal pocket is a space around your tooth, technically known as the sulcus (plural sulci), although often the term “pocket” is only used to refer to an unhealthy expansion of the sulcus due to gum disease.
This small space is bounded by the gum tissue, which attaches to the tooth and to the bone that surrounds and supports the tooth. In healthy gum tissue, this space is relatively small, and in some cases the probe may not even go into the pocket. Typically six measurements are made around the tooth, and the deepest measurement is recorded for each tooth. In healthy gums, the size of the sulcus is three millimeters or less.
When You Don’t Want Deep Pockets
Although you may think it’d be nice to have deep pockets, it’s not true when it comes to your probing depth. Deep periodontal pockets are a sign that your gums are becoming diseased. As bacteria begin to make their home in the sulci, they damage your gum tissue. This separates the gum tissue from your teeth, and it often goes along with the loss of bone tissue under the gums.
Depending on the shape of the pocket and your dentist’s technique, the probe may contact cementum or it may touch the gums at the bottom of the pocket. If it touches diseased gums, they may be soft and the probe, although blunt, may penetrate into the gums.
Any probe measurement over three millimeters is considered unhealthy, partly because that’s when it becomes hard for you to clean your gums at home. If you aren’t able to clean food and bacteria from the gum pockets, bacteria will collect there, and the process of receding gums can accelerate.
A probe measurement over six millimeters is considered severe gum disease and requires professional care.
Gum disease treatments are very good at stopping receding gums and restoring health to your gums, but they won’t make your gums grow back. Instead, gum rejuvenation may be recommended to help restore your gums to their former coverage.
To learn whether gum rejuvenation can help you, please call 310-275-5325 in Beverly Hills or (949) 551-5902 in Orange County today for an appointment.