Clearwater Periodontist Dr. Todd Britten: Periodontal Exam

DO YOU RECALL HEARING NUMBERS – like 3, 2, 2, 4 – being said aloud during your dental cleanings or dental exams?

These numbers are your periodontal pocket depth measurements and they are very important in determining the condition of your gum health.

Your gum tissue does not attach directly to your teeth. There is a space or pocket between the gum and the tooth before it attaches. The pocket gets deeper when bacteria or gum disease is present. To monitor and evaluate gum health, the pocket depth is measured, recorded, and monitored over time.

In a healthy mouth, a pocket can be generally from 1-3 millimeters deep.

To measure a pocket, your dental hygienists or dentist uses a periodontal probe. The probe allows them to measure in millimeters from the top of the pocket to the bottom of the pocket. The bottom of the pocket is where the tissue is connected through ligaments to the root. This measurement is taken very gently and causes no damage to the gum tissue.

When a tooth has signs of gum disease, the tissue begins to detach. Under 3 mm deep a pocket is considered healthy, while 4mm or deeper is generally considered unhealthy. The bacteria and infection causing the detachment needs to be addressed.

At your next dental hygiene visit, make sure to find out any problem areas found during your periodontal exam and how to treat it.

It is important to catch gum disease as early as possible. Regular dental checkups are vital, as is an awareness of the warning signs of gum disease. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, serious problems including tooth loss can occur.

For more information, please contact our office at 727-586-2681 or visit our website at


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