Most people seem to be aware that cavities and fractures cause us to lose teeth, but what they don’t realize is that the number one reason adults lose teeth is not due to the teeth themselves.
The foundation around each tooth is what keeps our teeth from getting loose. Our roots are much longer than what we can see above the gumline, and their attachment can be weakened by germs that aren’t cleaned off of the teeth regularly. Healthy gums are held very tightly to the teeth with only a slight amount of overlap – usually one to three millimeters. But germs can sit in these tiny pouches and cause them to spread and open away from the tooth. An opened gap of more than three millimeters is called a periodontal pocket.
We look for pockets with a plastic or metal ruler called a periodontal probe. The probe is gently slipped under the gum and walked around the tooth with very little pressure. We record six measurements for each tooth to get a sort of “topographical map” of the health of your gumline and the bone that supports your teeth. Gums that are tender or that bleed when probed are also noted because that is a sign of active infection.
When you have active gum infection, or periodontal disease, not only can it cause your teeth to be lost, you have a sore that won’t heal, and that even allows bacteria to enter your bloodstream and settle into deeper parts of your body which can contribute to many other very serious health conditions. The deeper the pocket, the more difficult it is to get it to close up. If it has been a long time since you’ve had your teeth cleaned, or if you have pockets that are forming despite regular preventive cleanings, the treatment for periodontal pockets is called Gum Disease Therapy. This careful cleaning of the tooth and the tissue lining the pockets is a way to get your own immune system working for you again. When the bacteria is removed out of a pocket often the space will heal and close up because there’s no more foreign material invading that area of your mouth.
If you are diagnosed with pockets we can print out a guide that lets you know exactly where in your mouth they are located, how deep they are, and the treatment recommended. Just remember, the smaller the numbers, the healthier your gums are!