Recession and pocketing are not the same. I hear variations of two statements from patients which lead me to believe this is a confusing topic to some. “I know my teeth are sensitive because I have deep pockets or because my gums have receded, I need deeper cleanings.”
Granted both terms refer to conditions of the gums but are very different in terms of treatment and oral health. We, meaning dental professionals, take measurements of your gums annually if not more frequent to evaluate the health from year to year. This way we can catch any changes that could determine different or more serious treatment. By using millimeter increments, two gum or gingival measurements are taken. One is for recession and the other pocketing.
Recession is the loss of gum tissue from around the tooth thus exposing the root. This exposed root makes the tooth more susceptible to decay, abfractions (wear in the root surface), tooth sensitivity and potential tooth loss. Measurements are taken along the outer surface of the tooth to gage how much gum has recessed or migrated over time. Measurements vary per person in the sense that a 4mm reading might be fine on one person but may not be for another. By taking measurement and keeping track of its progression we are able to determine different recommendations for taking care of your teeth or get a specialist involved if needed.
Measuring pockets or “probing” or “charting” helps determine the general periodontal or gum health. An instrument, probe, is placed down in-between the tooth and the gums to determine where the attachment of gum starts. This is known as the base of the pocket. Hygienists and dentists take six measurement for every tooth to evaluate the health or presence of gum disease. By keeping a record of this year after year we hope to maintain a healthy periodontium and prevent periodontal disease and tooth loss. If we cannot prevent it, at least we can try and slow the progression with different types of cleanings or getting a specialist involved. A normal or healthy range is between 1mm and 3mm, anything higher is indicative of infection and gum disease.
By documenting and monitoring these measurements, dental professionals can make crucial decisions about treatment that is best for you. Whether it be a referral to a specialist or coming in for an extra cleaning a year, the objective is to maintain a healthy oral environment, identify problems early on and prevent further disease.
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