Aim For Lowest Number When Hygienist Performs ‘Probing’ Of Gums

Posted on Jun 27, 2014 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Gum disease affects over 80% of the population at some time in their life. This is why your 6-month dental check-ups include ‘probing’ of the gums.

A periodontal probe is a thin instrument with a blunted end. It has markings that measure ‘pocket depth’ of gums. Using light pressure, the Hygienist places the probe’s tip into the gum tissue between each tooth and at front and back sides. The probe measures the pocket depth in six points around each tooth.

The depth of the periodontal pockets around teeth is the main indicator for the progression of gum disease and level of tissue destruction. Periodontal probing is the main tool used by dentists and periodontists for evaluating the severity of periodontal disease. Probing is also the recommended system in the U.S. to calculate levels of periodontal disease and is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

During the probing process, you’ll likely hear the Hygienist call out numbers as she probes different points around each tooth. These are recorded in your patient chart. Hearing a ‘one’ or ‘two’ is an indication of healthy gums. Measured depths of ‘three’ and over indicates the presence of gum disease. When gum disease is classified at depths of 3 to 5, mild periodontal disease has begun. Five to 6 indicates moderate periodontitis and over 6 or 7 is severe periodontitis.

These measurements determine the level gum disease present as well as the treatment needed. Anything over a ‘3’ or ‘4’ level typically requires the skills of a Periodontal Specialist for successful treatment.

Periodontal disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Early diagnosis of gum disease can prevent or minimize damage to teeth, supporting bone and connective tissues around teeth. Gum disease in initial stages (when bleeding is noticed while brushing teeth, for example) can often be treated with a thorough dental cleaning and committed at-home oral hygiene routine.

However, many people with periodontal disease delay care, allowing damage to progress. In addition to tooth loss, gum disease bacteria can create inflammatory triggers in the body. The bacteria associated with gum disease has been associated with severe health problems, including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, memory loss, pre-term babies and more.

If you have delayed or avoided your 6-month dental check-ups, you are missing an important step in maintaining good overall health in addition to a healthy smile. If you find that dental check-ups and cleanings are uncomfortable, mention this to your Hygienist at the beginning of your appointment.

Keep in mind that patients who have 1 or 2 probing measurements don’t complain about discomfort during these visits. Healthy gums aren’t nearly as sensitive as those with bacterial inflammation. Ask your Hygienist how you can achieve a “number one” smile!

Call (8282) 274-9440 if you’ve noticed bleeding when brushing, have sore or swollen spots on gum tissue, have persistent bad breath, or have gums that are red rather than a healthy pink. The sooner you receive diagnosis and treatment, the less involved your treatment needs will be.

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