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What is Periodontal Probing?


Posted on 1/3/2020 by Stephanie Day
If you’ve been to a dental office for an exam, you may recall hearing the Hygienist calling out numbers during a procedure called periodontal probing. If you’ve ever found yourself curious about what’s happening during this procedure, this blog post is for you.

What is Perio Periodontal Probing?



Interestingly enough, your gumline does not attach directly to your teeth - it attaches to the bone. This leaves a small, naturally occurring pocket between the gumline and a tooth’s surface. When healthy, this pocket generally measures about 1-3 millimeters deep. 

Probing (which sounds like a scary word) is really one of our friendly, skilled Hygienists using a round ruler instrument to measure each tooth’s pocket depth in millimeters. The measurement process is quick and easy! If your gums are healthy, you wouldn’t even realize it was happening if it wasn’t for your Hygienist calling out the measured numbers from your gumline to be saved into your dental chart. Charting these numbers gives us a baseline to be able to track changes in your gum health over time which can help us identify any potential issues as early as possible. 

It is very easy for bacteria to get trapped in these little pockets which is why we highly recommend brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing at least once a day in order to effectively clear out this bacteria. If bacteria accumulates in this pocket and is left untreated, an infection can occur and overtime this pocket can dramatically deepen which can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. 


What Do My Numbers Mean?



A measurement of 1-3 millimeters deep is generally considered healthy while anything over 4 millimeters may be cause for concern. Once a tooth pocket reaches a depth of 4 millimeters Periodontal Disease (gum disease) is more than likely present and your Hygienist may recommend non-surgical periodontal therapy (a deeper, more specialized type of cleaning), followed by periodontal maintenance visits three to four times a year in order to gain control over the disease and preserve your teeth. Maintaining professional hygiene appointments is very important to the health of your gums, especially if you have gum disease. 

In cases of severe gum disease or if the pockets are too deep for non-surgical treatment methods, Dr. Hill may refer you to a doctor who specializes in cases where surgery may be required to reduce the pocket size.


I Have Gum Disease. Now What?



Gum disease is one of the most common health problems of today. However, it is largely preventable or maintainable with a strong healthy mouth routine and if caught early can sometimes be reversed. If you enjoy your smile and want to preserve it for the rest of your life, here are our recommendations.

• Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.

• Floss at least once a day.

• Never skip a bedtime brushing! Sugars and acidity can wreak havoc on your teeth and your gumline if left to fester overnight. 

• Maintain your recommended Hygiene visits! We can’t stress this enough. Your Hygienist is professionally trained to remove buildup and clean deeper than you would be able to reach on your own. Your Hygienist is one of your best defenses against gum disease!

• Maintain your yearly dental examinations. During these visits is when we will measure your gumline pockets and be able to observe any changes from the previous year. 


We understand that dental care is often put on the back burner, but a healthy mouth is all about prevention. If you are behind on your Hygiene visits or dental exams we encourage you to schedule a visit as your smile depends on it.  
Bryan Hill, DDS
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