September 22, 2017
If you had to grade your oral health from 1 to 9, with 9 being the worst, what would you rank it? A perfect 1, an ok 4, or something… worse?
You may not realize it, but that’s the exact scale your dental team uses to judge how healthy your gums are — and by extension, measure your greater oral health. Based on the ranking of your gum tissue, your hygienist may recommend periodontal therapy or a deep dental cleaning for treating gum disease.
About Periodontal Pockets
Gum disease is indicated by what we call “periodontal pockets.” These are spaces where the bacteria that causes infection has eaten away at the healthy gum tissue, causing a wide space that may leave the tooth’s root exposed if it’s significant enough.
In the most severe cases of gum disease, these pockets can lead to loose and shifting teeth that eventually results in the teeth falling out altogether.
You may not notice periodontal pockets at first, or at all. Most of the time, they are detected by your dental hygienist during a checkup and cleaning. Using a special calibrated instrument, your hygienist will measure the depth of the pockets to determine whether or not you need periodontal therapy to heal infection.
What the Numbers Mean
We grade the health of your gums on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 indicating the most severe recession, or loss of gum tissue — 9 mm.
Here’s how we determine whether or not you need periodontal therapy, and what type you would benefit from most.
- 1 to 3 mm: Healthy gums
- 4 mm: Warning sign. In the beginning stages of gum disease, improved hygiene at home can be enough to arrest the infection for better oral health.
- >4 mm: Typically the call the treat gum disease. A pocket 5 or 6 mm deep can generally be treated with scaling and root planing. Anything larger may require surgical treatment.
Next time you’ve got a dental appointment and you hear your dental hygienist calling out numbers, it’s not to count your teeth — we’re grading your periodontal health!
Gum Disease Treatment and Prevention
The first defense against moderate levels of gum disease (that indicated by a pocket 5 to 6 mm deep) is scaling and root planing. Also known as a deep cleaning, it’s a treatment method in which your dentist or hygienist uses special tools to clean above and below the gum line. The tooth’s root is then smoothed (the “planing” portion) to prevent the risk of reinfection.
After gum disease has healed, maintaining excellent oral hygiene practices and visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings can help you enjoy better oral health for a lifetime to come.
About the Author
Dr. Alex Martin strives to provide the very best in general, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry for Scottsdale families and friends. To learn more about his services or to schedule an appointment for expert periodontal therapy, you are invited to contact the office at (480) 860-1993.
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