3…2…3…4…bleeding….every adult patient has experienced this monodrone exchange between their hygienist and assistant every year at their hygiene appointment, but what are they doing?!!! What does it all mean? Is a high score good?
Just like many of us have our annual bloodwork to evaluate the health of our bodies, our dental team gathers metrics to gauge the health of our mouths as well. This evaluation is referred to as periodontal measurements, or the frequently used but far more ominous phrase, probing.
But what are they measuring? The cuff of tissue that encircles each tooth, much like a turtleneck around a neck, is referred to as the periodontium. The what?!!! We know, we know…not as important to master the dental terminology as much as it is to understand its purpose. The periodontium is likened to the foundation surrounding a house; we want that foundation to be solid. There’s a reason we don’t build our homes over swampy land, right?
Measuring the depth of this “pocket” informs the hygienist and dentist of the patient’s gum health. These metrics are used to determine if the patient’s current home care routine and dental hygiene schedule are sufficient for the patient’s periodontal needs at that time.
Let’s take a look at what those numbers mean…
• A depth of three millimeters or less with no bleeding ensures a healthy mouth supported by an appropriate regimen at home & in the dental treatment room.
• Four millimeters with bleeding suggests the presence of gingivitis–an infection limited to the gums, but can often progress to periodontal disease.
• Five millimeters and greater, with the presence of bleeding and tartar deposits confirms periodontal disease–an irreversible infection in the bone.
Without proper treatment to slow the progression of bone loss, periodontal disease will lead to further infection and eventually, can lead to tooth loss!