Complete dental checkups always include evaluating your gum health. Healthy gums are usually firm and pink, don’t bleed easily during brushing and flossing, and fit snugly around teeth.
To check whether your gums are a snug fit, your dentist or dental hygienist performs a gum check to probe the spaces between your gums and teeth. Many factors go into understanding your overall gum health, but shallow gum pockets are typically healthier than deep gum pockets.
During an exam, your dentist or hygienist will check for gum pockets by gently inserting the narrow end of a small tool called a periodontal probe into the space between your tooth and gum. While the probe may look sharp, it’s only a tiny ruler with a dull end.
The gum probing process works like this:
Gum probing for periodontal pockets is an important part of preventative care. Diseased gums tend to swell, bleed, and recede, forming gum pockets or periodontal pockets. Unchecked, these gum pockets can deepen with time, allowing plaque and bacteria to collect. This causes infections, and eventually, damages the bone that holds your tooth in place. However, gum probing for pocket depth regularly can reveal gum disease early when options for healing are best.
The deeper the pockets in your gums, the more serious your gum disease may be:
|Gum Pocket Depth||What it Can Mean*||What to Do About it|
|1-3 mm||Generally healthy gums||Keep up the good oral hygiene!|
|4 mm||Borderline||Step up your oral care routine now|
|5-6 mm||Gum disease||Consult with your dentist and improve your at-home oral care|
|7 mm or more||Advanced gum disease||Ask your dentist or periodontist for treatment options, and commit to meticulous oral hygiene at home|
|*These are generalizations. See your dentist to diagnose gum disease.|
If gum probing numbers reveal gum disease, your dentist may prescribe treatment to reduce your gum pocket depth. Practicing better oral hygiene at home may also help reduce your gum check numbers and improve your gum health. Using a Waterpik® Water Flosser with the Pik Pocket™ tip is the easy and more effective way to do just that. Combining pulsations with gentle water pressure, Water Flossing cleans deep below the gumline where toothbrushes and string floss can’t reach. In fact, in clinical tests, Waterpik® Water Flossers improved overall gum health in patients with moderate to severe periodontal disease.