Have you ever been in the dental chair and heard numbers being called out, “3,2,3,” etc? You may have had these numbers explained to you but forgotten what they mean. These numbers are measurements of your gums that are taken during a periodontal examination. The numbers directly correlate with your mouth’s overall health, and your dental team will take a full periodontal reading every few years. 

So, what do these numbers mean?

The numbers indicate a millimetre measurement of how much gum and bone support you have around each tooth. Precisely, the measurement is taken from the top of the gum line to the top of the bone level. Six measurements are taken for each tooth, three at the front and three at the back, so no area around your tooth is missed.

what is a periodontal probe mississauga dentist

How are these measurements taken?

A tool called a periodontal probe is used to access underneath your gum line to measure from the top of the gum to the top of the bone. All healthy gum tissue will have a slight lip, like a turtleneck, around the tooth. Have you ever been flossing your teeth and noticed the floss slip underneath your gums? This is normal, and it’s called the “sulcus.” When gum inflammation is present, the sulcus deepens and turns into a periodontal pocket. Healthy gum sulcus measurements are between one to three millimetres, and periodontal pockets start at 4 millimetres or deeper. 

How is a periodontal pocket formed? 

When you aren’t adequately brushing and flossing your teeth, bacteria is left to accumulate. This bacteria is called plaque, and it sits along your gum line and even slightly underneath. Plaque accumulation causes inflammation in your gums, leading to a separation of the gum from the tooth (thus, a periodontal pocket.) These pockets may be reversed if the inflammation subsides, but when the inflammation persists, the pockets become permanent and cause loss of gum and bone tissue around the teeth. 

Does a periodontal exam hurt?

If you have healthy gums free of inflammation, a periodontal exam will not hurt. Although a dental probe looks a little sharp, it’s not puncturing your gums. The dental probe gets inserted between your gums and teeth, the same place where floss will clean. You may experience tenderness occasionally if you have gum inflammation and deep periodontal pockets. 

How can you prevent periodontal pockets?

Maintaining optimal oral health is the best possible way of preventing periodontal pockets. That means having a daily routine at home with brushing, flossing and use of mouthwash. In addition, it is essential to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. Stay informed about your periodontal exams; your dental team will be happy to discuss any areas of concern with you so you know where to focus and how to clean these areas at home properly. 

If you have any questions about periodontal pockets or believe you are due for a periodontal exam, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


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3052 Elmcreek Rd, Unit 104
Mississauga, ON, L5B 0B6
(At Mavis Rd & Dundas St in the Superstore plaza)

CALL US NOW: 905-306-7770

Email: info@elmcreekdentalcare.com

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