When you go in for a routine dental checkup and cleaning, you may notice the dental hygienist or dentist calling out numbers as they poke around your teeth and gums. What do these gum numbers mean? They aren’t just random, they actually represent the health of your gum tissue.
The dentist is measuring the depth of the pocket between your gums and each tooth in millimeters. Smaller gum numbers mean healthier gums.
Deep, flabby pockets are breeding grounds for plaque and tarter buildup, and usually mean that some sort of treatment is needed.
In most cases, these numbers range from 1 to 4 mm, but occasionally a 5 mm or 6 mm is recorded in patients with severe buildup and gum disease.
Here is a more in-depth look at what gum numbers mean.
1 to 3 mm
A measurement between 1 to 3 mm means your teeth and gums are generally healthy.
Patients who practice healthy dental health habits like daily brushing and flossing usually don’t have to worry about deep gum pockets, unless another health problem is potentially causing the gums to be inflamed.
Most dental professionals consider a 4 mm measurement to be a warning sign.
Dr. Laura K. Geiger of Southeast Family Dental in Indianapolis, Indiana, says, “I tell people that having a few 4s may not be a problem, depending on the situation. A 4 mm measurement could mean a few things. If it has been awhile since you have had a cleaning, a 4 can mean there is some inflammation of the gums making the measurement larger. But it can also signal the beginning of bone loss or periodontal disease around a tooth.”
The dentist will also check to see if the gums bleed during the measurements, as this is another warning sign of a bigger problem.
5 to 6 mm
If a pocket measures higher than 4 mm, then the dentist will typically recommend a deep cleaning treatment to remove buildup between the gums and teeth.
At this point, the dentist will also want to look at what is causing the gum inflammation. It could be gum disease, gum loss, or potentially a cracked tooth.
In some extreme cases, surgery is recommended. In surgery, the gums are actually flapped back into place and stitched together. The stitches are later removed and the dentist will assess the health of the gum disease before deciding if any further action is needed.
To avoid flabby or inflamed gums, it’s important to practice healthy dental hygiene habits. If you need to check the health of your teeth and gums, find a dentist who can treat you and your family on ChooseYourDentist.com.