Those Silly (Important) Numbers

We recently had a potential new patient call our Smile Sarasota office and asked if periodontal probing was part of our new patient exam and cleaning. When we told her we absolutely will do this and always have, she stated she “didn’t believe in all this gum probing stuff ” and that this must just be a “Florida thing”. It’s interesting that some people still believe that losing all your teeth is just a part of aging and are OK with letting gum disease be the cause for it. This is such a fallacy! And probing has been a part of dentistry for quite some time – Smile Sarasota has discussed this in detail in a previous Blog. WE DO NOT WANT YOU TO LOSE YOUR TEETH!

For decades, probing clinical pocket depth and attachment level have been recognized as the dentist’s most important tools in diagnosing periodontal health and disease. A periodontal probe is an instrument in dentistry commonly used in the dental armamentarium. It is usually long, thin, and blunted at the end. The primary purpose of a periodontal probe is to measure pocket depths around a tooth in order to establish the state of health of the gums and supporting tissues…in other words, the foundation that holds your teeth in the jaw.

There are markings inscribed onto the head of the instrument for accuracy and readability. Typically, when we probe around each tooth with the periodontal probe, we want to get numbers like one, two or three millimeters…these numbers indicate health. However when the number is higher than three mm, then this means that there is a problem. We classify problems with the foundation (that hold the teeth in) as mild, moderate or severe depending on how deep the probe goes. If the probing depth is greater than 3mm, then we hope that it is because the gums are swollen. The reason being that the problem of swollen gums can be reversed quite easily by stepping up with your brushing and flossing…particularly the flossing (see blog on proper oral hygiene techniques). If your gums bleed while flossing, just keep flossing and massaging them, even if they hurt. By continuing to work on your gums they will eventually tighten up and stop bleeding and the pocket measurements will reduce. But if the probing measurements (greater than 3 mm) are due to actual bone loss and not swollen gums, then we will be able to see the bone loss on x rays. In addition to this, the tooth may be loose. If there is less bone holding onto the root of the tooth, then the tooth will be loose and eventually be lost without treatment. This is exactly what we want to help you prevent!

Call Smile Sarasota and Dr. Adam Still will be happy to review your periodontal health, answer your questions and help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for life!



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