Have you ever wondered why your dentist calls out numbers to the assistant while checking your teeth? This is periodontal charting, also called probing or periodontal screening, and it is a critical part of your annual dental exam.
Periodontal charting is the process of measuring pockets – the space between a tooth and the gum tissue surrounding it. Your dentist or dental hygienist uses an instrument known as a probe and carefully inserts it into this space. The probe has markings like a tape measure that indicates how deep it can reach into this space to check the overall health of your gums.
Generally, your dentist takes six measurements for every tooth to ensure that all areas of your mouth are reviewed. Alongside these measurements, they also check for bleeding of the gum tissue and areas of gum recession.
Healthy gum tissue typically has pockets measuring 1-3 millimeters and fits snugly around your tooth. Measurements of 4 millimeters and deeper are concerning since plaque and bacteria could be causing the tissue to inflame and pull away from the tooth. Areas with higher readings are often more sensitive to probing.
In severely diseased areas, probing depths can reach as high as 12 millimeters. These problem areas are known as periodontal pockets and are generally challenging to keep clean at home. A periodontal chart helps your dental professional organize the information about your gums and diagnose and treat the disease.
Periodontal charting is a thorough process and can significantly improve your chances of maintaining all your teeth. Pocket depths indicate how healthy your gums are, and the typical range of measurements include:
Your dentist may record your gum depth numbers in several ways. Sometimes, they type the measurements directly into a computer program. Other times, an assistant may type the numbers in as your dentist takes the measurements.
With advancements in technology, they can also use voice recognition technology, and you will hear your dental professional calling out the numbers aloud. If they discover any areas of concern, your dental professional will discuss them with you as part of the evaluation process. They may even issue you a copy of your periodontal chart to take home.
Periodontal charting is a critical step in the early detection of gum disease. Gum disease affects almost half of adults above age 30 and causes inflammation that can trigger bone and tooth loss.
Since gum disease can be painless in the early stages, it can go undetected without regular preventative dental care. Common symptoms include sensitive gums that bleed easily, especially when you brush or floss. Gum recession is also commonly associated with the disease.
To maintain optimum oral health and keep gum disease at bay, you should schedule regular periodontal charting at least once per year. If discovered early, your dentist can make targeted efforts to reverse the effects of gum disease and help you restore oral health.
Most dental offices recommend periodontal charting for all patients who have a complete set of adult teeth. However, they can do it at a younger age if the gum tissue is bleeding or swollen.
Do you have additional questions about periodontal charting? Please share with us in the comments below!
Have you ever wondered why your dentist calls out numbers during your exam? Find out what periodontal charting is and why it matters.
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