One of the ways we diagnose gum disease is by measuring gum pockets. Gum pockets or periodontal pockets are the spaces surrounding your teeth, beneath the gum line. Read on to learn more about what gum pockets tell us, and how they can be treated.
How Are Gum Pockets Measured?
During an oral exam, we measure the depth of gum pockets using a very small ruler called a probe. We take six measurements per tooth, three on the inner side and three on the outer side. It is normal to have a very small space, about one to three millimeters, around each tooth. Proper brushing and flossing can clean food and debris from spaces of this size.
What Deep Gum Pockets Tell Us
A gum pocket depth of between three and five millimeters is an indicator of early gum disease, otherwise known as gingivitis. If gum pockets are deeper than five millimeters, this is a sign of gum disease that has progressed beyond gingivitis, with pocket depth of seven to ten millimeters indicating advanced periodontitis. In some cases, pocket depth might be classified as mild to moderate (for example, four millimeters) while the presence of other symptoms such as bleeding gums would point to more severe periodontitis.
Gum pockets are the result of gum tissue detaching from your teeth. The deeper the pocket around a tooth is, the more space there is for plaque to build up and bacteria to thrive. It is very difficult or even impossible to clean food and debris out of a space deeper than the normal one to three millimeter pocket. Without treatment, bacteria continue to grow in the pocket, gum tissue continues to detach from the teeth, and eventually bone and tooth loss can occur as a result.
How Are Gum Pockets Treated?
Treatment depends on the depth of the gum pocket and how much gum disease has progressed. In addition to measuring gum pocket depth, we will probably also take X-rays to see if there is any bone loss under the gum line. Early gum disease can typically be reversed with a diligent daily oral hygiene routine. Treatment options for more severe periodontitis include antibiotics, scaling and root planing, and various surgical procedures. If you are concerned that you may have gum disease, call our office to set up an appointment.
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