A gum pocket is the space or gap between our tooth and its surrounding gum. Your hygienist or dentist will use a tiny little ruler we call a probe to measure the space between your gum and tooth, the pocket. Healthy gums will fit snuggly around the tooth and the measurement will be between 1-3mm.
When there is plaque or tartar around or below the gum, it starts to pull away creating a deeper pocket due to inflammation and swelling from the bacteria. This is when the gum starts to have ‘pockets’ deeper than 3mm indicating some form of gum disease.
These deep pockets now allow for bacteria to travel down further below the gum and can start to affect and damage the bone around the teeth. The deeper the pocket is, usually the more severe the inflammation or disease is.
What is deep cleaning?
Generally, your hygienist or dentist will recommend a scale and clean every 6 months.
This will usually be a ‘regular’ hygiene clean appointment which involves a scale and polish and fluoride if required.
A deep cleaning also known as a root planing is different, it is prescribed for gum disease that has progressed or for pockets that are greater than 4mm.
It involves your hygienist or dental professional carefully using various scaling tools to work under the gum line to clean away the calculus, debris of food that is stuck and also bacteria.
A full mouth gum pocket measurement chart may also be required as a diagnostic tool to help monitor the progress of the gum disease.
During these deep cleanings you may be numbed up with a topical gel or anesthetic if required so that you are comfortable, and the cleaning can be performed adequately.
A scaling and root planing procedure may require 2 to 3 appointments depending on the level of disease, the measurements of the pockets and the amount of bacteria present.
A follow-up visit also may be necessary to confirm that your gums and teeth are getting healthier and there is improvement in the gum condition. It is also important for your dental professional to make sure you are utilizing the appropriate techniques and tools at home on a daily basis to ensure we are giving your gums the best chance of healing.
Gum disease can be treated or controlled, but may require regular ‘maintenance’ visits, usually every 3-4 months in the beginning, to monitor the status of your teeth, gums and bone to make sure your gums have healed, and the bacteria have not returned. Some individuals who may be predisposed to having gum disease may need to return for regular periodontal maintenance cleanings, and others may be able to return to a regular hygiene routine and 6-month dental checkup visits.
Deep cleanings if required are very important because if severe inflammation is left untreated, the infection will continue and progress further under the gum line, which can result in loose teeth and bone loss, and ultimately, the loss of one or more teeth over time.