Have you ever wondered why your dentist pokes your gums? What your dentist is doing is checking the depth of gum tissue pockets that surround your tooth. It’s a proactive way to identify your risk for gum disease, and when done regularly, can help catch the condition early. Dental probing can save you from surgery and extractions, and here’s why.
How Does Dental Probing Work?
Dental probing is done by using a tool called a dental “probe” to measure the depth of a tooth’s pocket. The probe acts like a ruler, and has markings along its side measured out in millimeters. To measure the depth of your tooth’s pocket, your dentist gently places the probe into this pocket and makes note of the depth. From time to time, you may hear your dentist say a number or write down a number. Those numbers you hear are the millimeter depths of your pocket. Six measurements are taken per tooth, three along the outside, and three along the inside of each tooth. A depth of three millimeters or under without any bleeding is generally accepted as healthy. Above that number, your dentist may suggest more thorough cleanings, including scaling and root planing, or something even more comprehensive if the number is above a five and nearing ten.
Dental Probing Catches Problems Early
One reason to visit the dentist regularly is to identify problems in your mouth that you are completely oblivious to. Subtle changes in the health of our gum tissue can be missed by some people – even those who visit a dentist regularly. To the naked eye, some of the health changes can be missed, therefore your gums are prone to an excess buildup of plaque and tartar that can result in gingivitis and periodontal disease. Thankfully, your dental team can catch these changes early through the use of X-rays and the practice of dental probing.
As periodontal disease progresses, the visible markers of the disease (plaque and tartar) migrate down along the side of the tooth into the natural “pocket” between the ridge of the gumline and the tooth’s enamel. This inflames the gum tissue, widening the naturally slim gap between the tooth and gum. As the gap becomes wider, even more bacteria are allowed access to the sensitive tissue fibers along the root’s outer surface, causing more damage. This process may result in bone loss, and the need to extract a tooth. This is why probing is so important!
Maintaining pocket health is critical, and proper brushing and flossing can help clear away plaque and prevent the tartar buildup that expands a pocket. Your dentist plays a critical role in ensuring you’re staying ahead of gum disease, so be sure to schedule regular appointments!
Do you have any questions about dental probing? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.