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Why Do We Measure Periodontal Pocket Depths?

September 22, 2011 in Dentistry,Periodontal Treatment by McCarl Dental Group

An important measure of periodontal (gum) health is the depth of the pocket around each tooth. The top of gum tissue does not attach directly to teeth. There is a space of pocket between the gum and the tooth before it attaches. This space or pocket deepens in the presence of gum disease. To monitor and evaluate gum health, the pocket depth must be measured, recorded, and monitored over time.

Many diseases are not obvious without testing. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels must be measured in order to be evaluated. Similarly, periodontal disease needs to be measured by pocket depth around each tooth.

The pocket depths are compared to see if gum health is improving, maintaining, or getting worse. Gum disease is sometimes called “the sneak thief of teeth.” You may not know you have it until it is too late. People may assume their gums are fine because “they don’t hurt,” but if the pockets haven’t been measured, you can’t be for sure. The dentists and hygienists at McCarl Dental Group work to monitor these levels closely for each patient in our Greenbelt and Millersville, MD dental offices.

In a healthy mouth, a pocket can be anywhere from 1-3 millimeters deep. To measure a pocket we use a periodontal probe. The probe allows us to measure in millimeters from the top of the pocket to the bottom of the pocket. The bottom of the pocket is the area where the tissue is connected through ligaments to the root.
This measurement is taken very gently and causes no damage to the delicate gum tissue.

When a tooth has periodontal disease, this tissue becomes detached past 3mm deep. Under 3mm deep a pocket is considered healthy, while 4mm or deeper it is considered unhealthy. When connective tissue loss occurs, it is also a sign that there is bone loss. By our hygienists and dentists measuring the periodontal pockets regularly, we can monitor bone and tissue attachment levels. These measurements should be taken once or twice a year, or more often in patients with active or previous periodontal disease.

The recordings taken during periodontal probing are recorded onto a chart. There are 6 measurements taken for each tooth, 3 on the facial side and 3 on the tongue side. By monitoring the recordings against each other, the dentists and hygienists at our dental offices in Millersville and Greenbelt, MD are able to make sure no areas become progressively worse, or note improvement where treatment has occurred.

When several deep pockets are evident we will recommend scaling and root planing, or “deep cleaning.” The deep cleaning is more involved in that the focus is to remove the tartar from all pocket areas, since that is the bacteria’s “hiding place.”  Not even diligent brushing and flossing can remove the tartar from a deep pocket. If left alone, these infections can cause more bone loss and tissue detachment, resulting in tooth loss.

The Dentists at McCarl Dental Group in Millersville, MD and Greenbelt, MD, we believe in early intervention and prevention. By recording periodontal measurements at regular recall appointments, it can help us to detect small problems before they turn into large ones. We will work together with our patients to help them understand where these periodontal pockets are, and what we can do to help them heal. If you’re looking for a dentist in the Greenbelt or Millersville, MD area, please feel free to call and schedule an appointment. Greenbelt dental office –  301-474-4144; Millersville, Maryland dental office 410-987-8800. We’re available 6 days a week.   To learn more about periodontal charting and other dental topics, please visit the McCarl Dental website at

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