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Gingival Probing and Pocket Depth

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Oftentimes, gum disease can exist in an individual with little to no apparent symptoms. A person with gums that appear healthy and pink at initial glance can have significant buildup below the gum line that can cause severe damage to one’s oral health. This buildup, called calculus, is an accumulation of hardened plaque and toxin-emitting bacteria. Over time, calculus can cause bone and gum loss around the tooth, decay, and eventually even tooth loss. To help detect signs of gum disease, a special instrument called “a periodontal probe” is used. It has indicators on it to help your dental team measure the depth of your pockets with notches measured in millimeters. The probe is placed in between the tooth and gum tissue, and measures the depth of the periodontal pocket. Patients are usually tipped off that their pockets are being assessed by hearing their hygienist calling out numbers to an assistant while checking each tooth. An easy indicator of trouble is discovery of deep, periodontal pockets, typically deeper than three millimeters, which indicate inflamed gums or erosion of the bone supporting and surrounding the tooth. Gingival probing is a critical part of the dental examination, to ensure that your teeth and gums are maintained at optimal health.