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The Purpose of Dental Probing

You probably can recall your hygienist spouting off a bunch of data points from your last dental cleaning - something to the effect of: "healthy two, yes three no, healthy two, yes three no..." At your first couple visits, we make the extra effort to explain to you what all this information tells us. But in case your New Patient Exam with Dr. Hsu was years ago, here's a quick review! 

What are all those stats again?

Each tooth has a total of six dental surfaces for which we collect this information: three on the outside of the tooth, and three on the inside. For each of these six surfaces, we record the presence of plaque, the depth of your gum pocket, and the presence of bleeding. All three of these stats provide insights into your dental health, and the likely lifetime of your tooth!

Plaque and bleeding are both more intuitive concepts, and generally get more airtime than probing. All those numbers, however, can be a bit confusing. So,

Why do we "poke at your gums" at every oral hygiene visit?

Dental probing allows us to monitor your gum health. Healthy gums will hug the tooth more tightly than unhealthy gums, which helps keep plaque from collecting below the gum line. When your gums aren't healthy, acidic plaque buildup eats away at the root of the tooth, and can also enter your bloodstream - eewww! 

We use the pointy tool to see how much "give" there is between your tooth and your gums. Healthy gums will have a depth of 1-3mm pockets, so any probing numbers of 1, 2, or 3 indicate a healthy, adequate amount of gums! Numbers of 4 or higher indicate potential problem sites. Unhealthy periodontal pockets can signal potential bone loss (and thus, a grater risk of eventual tooth loss), and a greater chance of subgingival decay - not to mention the fact that periodontal disease impacts other areas of your health, including cardiovascular. 

Causes of Periodontal Pocketing 

Unhealthy pocketing may simply be the result of an insufficient at-home hygiene regimen. If that's the case, you're in luck! By reviewing your routine with Dr. Hsu or Merry and making the necessary adjustments, you are likely going to be able to shrink your periodontal pocketing over time.

However, if your hygiene routine is on point, there are other factors that can result in pockets of 4mm or more. Tooth loss, bone loss, decay, or even bite disease and uneven wear on your teeth may all cause deeper pockets. Talk to a care provider today if you have further questions! (425) 882-1354

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