Have you ever wondered why your dentist or hygienist starts rattling off a series of numbers to the in the middle of your cleaning? 2, 2, 3, 2, 4, 5! What’s going on there?

This practice, known as dental probing, is performed to check the depth of gum tissue pockets that surround your tooth and the level of bone underneath the tissue. It’s a proactive way to identify your risk for gum disease, and when done regularly, can help catch it early.

Dental probing is a pretty interesting exercise in dentistry and can save you from surgery and extractions. Here’s why:

Dental Probing Catches Problems Early

One reason to visit the dentist regularly is to identify problems in your mouth that you are completely oblivious to. Subtle changes in the health of your gum tissue can be missed by the naked eye, and some people – even those who visit a dentist regularly – can be prone to an excess buildup of bacteria, plaque, and tartar that can result in gum disease (more specifically gingivitis and periodontal disease).

Thankfully, your dental team can catch these changes early through the use of X-rays and the practice of dental probing.

The reason for probing is straightforward. As periodontal disease progresses, the bacterial biofilm migrates down the root of the tooth into the natural “pocket” between the ridge of the gumline and the tooth’s enamel.

This inflames the gum tissue and can widen this naturally slim gap between the tooth and gum. As this gap becomes wider, even more bacteria are allowed access to the sensitive tissue fibers along the root’s outer surface, causing more damage. This process ultimately results in bone loss and if not treated, can lead to the necessary extraction of a tooth. This is why probing is so important.

How Does Dental Probing Work?

“Probing” is quite simple and is accomplished by using a periodontal probe to measure the depth of a tooth’s pocket. The probe acts like a ruler, and has markings along its side measured out in millimeters.

To measure the depth of your tooth’s pocket, your hygienist gently places the probe into this pocket and makes note of the depth. Those numbers you hear are the millimeter depths of your pocket. Six measurements are taken per tooth, three along the outside, and three along the inside of each tooth. A depth of three millimeters or under without any bleeding is generally accepted as healthy.

Above that number, your dentist may suggest periodontal disease treatment, including scaling and root planing, laser bacterial reduction, ozone gas, or something even more comprehensive if the number is above a five and nearing ten.

As you can see, maintaining pocket health is critical, and proper brushing and flossing can help clear away plaque and prevent the tartar buildup that expands a pocket. Your dentist also plays a critical role in ensuring you’re staying ahead of gum disease, so be sure to keep your regular appointments – particularly if you have been identified as having periodontitis and recommended for more frequent, thorough cleanings.

Time to schedule an appointment?

Has it been awhile since your last dental check up? Or have you been recommended for more frequent preventative care appointments due to periodontitis? If so, contact us today to schedule an appointment at our holistic dentistry office in Nashville.

With a good routine and frequent visits to the dentist, the only numbers you’ll be hearing moving forward should be 1, 2 and 3!