What Does Counting Have To Do With My Gums?

What Toothaches Say About Your Oral Hygiene

Let’s say you are experiencing bleeding gums and sensitivity while brushing. While going to the dentist isn’t your favorite activity, the blood on your toothbrush convinces you to stop procrastinating. Gum disease might run in your family, and you don’t want to start wearing dentures before age 50 like some of your older relatives.

You may also be experiencing the following symptoms of periodontal disease:

  • chronic bad breath
  • painful chewing
  • overly sensitive teeth
  • teeth that appear longer due to gum recession

So, you make that overdue appointment.  You are seated in the dental chair. The dentist puts you at ease with a kindly chair side manner as she explains everything you need to know to about your session today: 

“I’m going to use this instrument to measure the pockets in your gums. You will feel a slight poking. Let me know if this gets uncomfortable,” she explains. 

Standing next to the dentist is her assistant, who takes notes. What you hear next is the calling out of numbers. The dentist identifies each of your teeth using a two-digit number based on its location.

The first number is the quadrant of your mouth—1 to 4. The second is the number of the tooth—1 to 8. So, your upper right (maxillary) front tooth would be in quadrant 1, tooth 1—or numbered 11. Likewise, your lower right (i.e., mandibular) central incisor would be the first tooth in the 4th quadrant, or 41. 

Then the dentist calls out another number associated with the depth of the pockets in your gums.

The pocket measurements are vital

You are at the critical part of your visit. 

The really important numbers when it comes to your dental health are the dentist’s measurements of the gaps between the pocket of your gum and its nearby tooth. Those measurements are in millimeters. 

The numbers you want to hear are 1 to 3. Those lower numbers signify healthy gums and are your reward for regular brushing and flossing.

Numbers 4 and 5, on the other hand are indicators or warnings that you need to get regular checkups and cleanings. The aforementioned bleeding and inflammation could be signs that you are heading for serious periodontal complications, and loss of your teeth.

If your gap is 5 millimeters or higher, your dentist will likely set you up for a deep cleaning. That treatment involves scaling and root planning to remove of plaque buildup. You may even be a candidate for periodontal gum surgery.

What causes the high gap numbers:

  • natural bacteria in the mouth, which combine with mucus and other particles
  • poor brushing and flossing habits
  • a buildup of plaque, which can harden into toxic tartar 
  • failure to get regular checkups and cleaning
  • smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes in young women
  • autoimmune illnesses, such as AIDS
  • medications that lessen the flow of saliva
  • genetic susceptibility

How to keep the numbers low:

  • regular brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
  • regular flossing to remove plaque between the teeth, alternatively using a wooden or plastic pick or water flosser
  • regular dental visits for routine checkups
  • stop smoking 

We’d love to hear from you

Gum disease affects over 64 million Americans, and many aren’t even aware of this insidious threat to their dental health. If you haven’t seen your dentist for a  while, it’s time to make an appointment with your Portland area dentist.

 Learn more about our periodontal treatment dental care services at TenderCare Dental.