Gum pockets are the spaces or gaps that are in-between your teeth and the gum that surround it. Your dentist or dental hygienist may use a tiny little ruler that is also known as a probe to measure the space between your gum and your tooth (the pocket). If you currently have healthy gums then they will fit snug around your tooth and your dental hygienist or dentist will see a measurement that is between 1mm and 3mm.
If you have plaque and or tartar around the gum or below it, then it will start to pull away which creates a deeper pocket due to the inflammation and the swelling that is caused from the bacteria. At this time your gum will start to have pockets deeper than 3mm which indicates some sort of gum disease. Pockets deeper than 3mm are also known as “deep pockets”.
The main problem with these deep pockets is that now bacteria have access to travel down further below the gum and it can actually start to affect and damage the bone surrounding your teeth. The depth of the pocket can help determine the severity of the inflammation or disease. A deeper pocket usually indicates a more severe disease or amount of inflammation compared to a pocket that is not quite as deep.
In general, your dentist or dental hygienist would recommend that you have a scale and cleanly done twice a year, or every 6 months. This is a normal dental cleaning appointment which will involve a scaling, polishing and also fluoride if needed.
However, a deep cleaning, which is also known or referred to as a root planning is very different. This is prescribed for you if you have pockets that are wider than 4mm or if you have gum disease that has progressed. This will involve your dental hygienist or dentist carefully using a scaling tool or multiple scaling tools to do work under your gum line. They will clean away any of the debris, bacteria or little bits of food that are stuck beneath your gum line. You may be numbed with an anesthetic or topical gel during these deep cleanings in order to help you be more comfortable and allow the cleaning to be performed properly.
This type of procedure may require multiple appointments dependent on the level of your gum disease, the size of your pockets and the number of bacteria that is currently present. A follow-up visit after the procedure is complete may be required to confirm that your teeth and gums are improving in health and that your gum condition is getting better. It is also very important that your dentist checks to make sure that you are brushing your teeth with the correct brush and technique.
If you are experiencing gum disease consult your dentist or dental hygienist. Gum disease may be treated or controlled but you may also require multiple visits to the dentist every 3-4 months to maintain progress. Deep cleanings are very important if they are required. If inflammation is left without treatment the infection may continue and progress even further under your gum line. This can result in loose teeth and even bone loss which can ultimately lead to the loss of one or more of your teeth over time.