Millimeters Matter

By: Cara Schurman, RDH

Millimeters of what?  Millimeters of gum tissue!

Periodontal screening and recording of these measurements is one of the first evaluations the Hygienist performs at your Dental Hygiene appointment, and the measurements we find in your Periodontal screening, dictate the direction we proceed.  I bring this to your attention, because I’m not sure many of you even know it’s happening, or what it is.  These measurements mean everything!  So it’s time you know exactly what they determine, and we encourage you to start asking how these millimeters matter to you.

This screening is commonly referred to as “Perio Charting”.  A periodontal probe (below) is a super tiny ruler on the end of this handle, that measures millimeters.  Perio Probe

It slides down between your gum tissue and your tooth, and measures the tissue above the bone known as “a pocket”.  Don’t worry!  You will barely feel it, if at all.   The screening is a series of numbers ranging from 1-12mm.  You will hear your Hygienist calling out the numbers of the measurements to someone who is charting those measurements as they go.
Perio Probe pocketIdeally, we want to see measurements that probe 1-3mm in the presence of zero bleeding. This indicates Optimal Gum Health!  Once these measurements start to increase above 3 mm, varying levels of gum disease are present.

A slight increase to 4mm indicates gingivitis, the inflammation of tissue related to plaque and/or calculus present in the area. Once the depth of these pockets increases to 5mm or more, the area presents with periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is in an infection not only affecting the tissues like gingivitis, but also infecting the bone.

Periodontal disease affects 47.2% of American adults age 35-65, and 70.1% of adults 65 years and older.  These are pretty shocking statistics reported in the Dimensions Journal of Dental Hygiene.

When patients present with a majority of 2 and 3 millimeter measurements we proceed with a regular preventative cleaning.  This is also known as a Prophy.  When the measurements present healthy in the majority of the mouth, but we find some localized 4, 5, or 6 mm measurements we would recommend a deeper cleaning in that area, professionally known as Scaling and Root Planing (SRP).

If the majority of the measurements consist of 4, 5, and 6 mm, we would recommend full- mouth deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing.  Pockets greater than 6mm get considered for referral to a specialist called a Periodontist.

You are a critical component of the treatment plan!  Periodontal disease is never cured but, rather very effectively maintained, and kept at bay!  Once your treatment is complete you enter a service called Periodontal Maintenance.  Your level of success is directly related to your home oral hygiene regimen.

We will customize our recommendations for your home care with the following tools:

Sonicare (powered toothbrush), floss which are both designed to reach 1-3mm, and Waterpik Water Flosser which reaches pocket depths up to 6mm.  The continual disruption of plaque that gets into these pockets on a daily basis is critical to the treatment of gum disease on all levels.  We educate to achieve healthy pocket depth and zero bleeding, and in turn you are healthy from head to heart.

Be sure you understand every last millimeter of your mouth!  Inquire and collaborate with your Hygienist at every appointment, so the team work from our office to your home pays off in health.