What Those Gum Measurements Really Mean about Your Oral Health

We know that dental visits can be stressful for a lot of patients. So when you’re leaning back and the hygienist starts poking your gums with a metal instrument while saying a series of numbers, you might be wondering what exactly is going on.

Not to worry — what we’re doing is called periodontal charting, and it can help us identify gum disease or other health concerns before you feel them.

What is periodontal charting?

Periodontal charting is a way of measuring the space between a tooth and the gum tissue next to it. Your hygienist uses an instrument called a probe and gently inserts it into this space. The size of these pockets is an indicator of how healthy or unhealthy your gums and bone support are. During this time, they also check for any bleeding of the gums, and any gum recession. 

What do the numbers mean?

The numbers that you might hear are the depths of the pockets around your teeth in millimeters. These indicate whether your gums are healthy, or if they’re starting to show signs of gum disease:

  • Areas that measure 1 to 3 millimeters and fit snugly around the tooth are healthy tissue.
  • Areas that measure 4 millimeters or deeper are cause for concern due to plaque and bacteria causing the tissue to be inflamed and pull away from the tooth. 
  • Areas with higher readings tend to be more sensitive to probing. In severely diseased areas, sometimes probing depths can reach up to 12 millimeters. These problem areas are often referred to as periodontal pockets and are often challenging to keep clean at home.

Why is periodontal charting important?

Periodontal charting is important because it can help your hygienist identify gum disease. Early detection is crucial when it comes to something like gum disease because it can help decrease your chances of acquiring a harmful secondary health condition spread by the bacteria from the disease. 

Periodontal disease can have many signs and symptoms you should look for, including

  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing.
  • Red, swollen or painful gums.
  • Bad breath.
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth.
  • Loose teeth.

If you notice any of these symptoms, see your dentist as soon as possible.

Periodontal charting is important for your oral health and not something to be scared of. If you find yourself a bit nervous, don’t hesitate to express your concerns with your hygienist so they can help make you more comfortable. If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, please contact us today!

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