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My Sacramento Dentist Pokes My Gums and Says Numbers – What Does It Mean?

By: Soft Touch

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My Sacramento Dentist Pokes My Gums and Says Numbers - What Does It Mean
Article By: Soft Touch

There is no denying how stressful dental visits can be for many patients. So when you’re lying down on the chair, and the dentist starts poking your gums with a metal instrument and saying a series of numbers, it might leave you confused as to what numbers have to do with anything.

There is no reason to worry. If you’ve recently been to your dentist in Sacramento, CA, and experienced several gentle pokes followed by your dentist calling out some numbers, then you’ve heard what’s called periodontal charting. The entire process of poking your gums and saying out numbers to their team is known as periodontal probing and charting.

This chart is helpful when the dentist is evaluating your overall oral health and gives you a proper insight into your treatment plan.

What Is This Procedure?

Periodontal charting is a practice where dentists use a periodontal probe to measure the distance between your gums and where they attach to your teeth. A dentist or dental hygienist usually uses a probe instrument and gently inserts it into this space. The probe has markings on it that give them an idea of how deep it can reach into the area to check the condition and health of your gums.

Why is it done?

In a healthy mouth, gums are tight and firm. When your hygienist takes your periodontal measurements, they see how far down it is until the gum attaches to the tooth. When a gap exists between dental visits or a lack of proper oral hygiene at home, the tissues start saturating with bacteria.

This results in inflammation of the tooth, and the tissue starts to pull away from the tooth. The gap that is created between the gums and the teeth is known as a periodontal pocket. These pockets mount up food remains, thus accumulating bacteria and allowing it to eat away at the bones and gums. This leads to periodontal disease, and then the condition of the gums can no longer be treated by anyone but a dental professional.

How is it done?

Dentists usually take up to six measurements per tooth to ensure that all areas are accounted for. Along with these measurements, they also check for bleeding of the gum tissues and any areas of gum recession. The normal healthy tissue measures 1 to 3 millimeters and fits securely around the tooth. If a tissue measures 4 millimeters and deeper, they become an area of concern due to plaque and bacteria that cause the tissue to be inflamed and pulls away from the tooth.

Areas that are of higher readings tend to be more sensitive to probing. In areas where the disease is more elevated, probing can reach up to 12 millimeters. These dental issues are known as periodontal pockets, and it is challenging to keep clean at home.

Why Are Gum Tissue Charts Important?

Periodontal charting is critical in the detection of gum disease. This condition is common and affects adults in their thirties and above. It causes gum line inflammation and can lead to loss of the bone that surrounds the teeth if proper medical attention is not provided. In most cases, gum diseases are painless, which is why they go undetected without preventative dental care until they get severe.

However, the symptoms are bleeding of the gums, mostly when flossing or brushing. Gum recession is also another sign of gum disease. Therefore, it is advised by dentists worldwide to get the measurements of gum disease yearly. Moreover, if problems are found, then it can be done more than once. This helps identify and treat periodontal diseases early on. Most dental offices start periodontal charting once a patient has reached full detention or has a complete set of adult teeth. It can also be done at a younger age if the gum tissue is swollen or bleeding.

Your dental hygienist or dentist in Sacramento, CA, may record the gum depth numbers in several ways. Sometimes they are typed into a computer. Other times they are said out loud to an assistant who organizes them or writes them down. Dentists also use voice recognition to make their lives easier; this allows them to take the measurements and call the numbers out loud without anyone assisting them.

Periodontal disease usually has these signs and symptoms:

Constant occurrence of bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when eating certain foods

  • Red, swollen or painful gums
  • Bad breath
  • Gums that are now pulling away from your teeth
  • Teeth becoming loose gradually

Gum disease is a silent killer. It starts silently and progresses slowly towards making your teeth condition worse. Measuring the pockets is a proactive approach. Most of the symptoms mentioned above do not occur until the gum disease reaches an advanced stage, and it gets challenging to treat. Early detection can make the process easier, and you can get better results.

What Does The Number Represent And The Significance?

The dentist’s scoring between 0 to 4 indicates zero being the best you can get meaning your gums are in excellent condition, and four indicate gum disease.

The numbers you hear your dentist calling are the depths of the pockets around the teeth in millimeters. Smaller, tighter pockets usually mean healthier gums.

Score 1: This indicates a plaque or bleeding from the edges of your gums.

Score 2: This indicates some hardened dead plaque that is attached to your teeth. It can be removed with some gentle cleaning and a little bit of effort in oral cleaning.

Score 3: This indicates that there is some difficulty. This is where you get the gum disease test done.

Score 4: This indicates gum disease, and then your treatment plan will be made keeping in mind how bad the condition of the gum is.

0-3mm without bleeding means your gums are in great shape. Keep up with oral hygiene.

1-3mm with gum bleeding is an initial sign of gingivitis, and better oral hygiene at home will get your gums back in good shape.

3-5mm without bleeding indicates that gum disease is possible. For this, a list of instructions will be given to you, along with a follow-up visit.

3-5mm with bleeding indicates the beginning of gum disease. This will require proper treatment and several visits for follow-up.

5-7mm with bleeding means that there has been some gum tissue damage. In some cases, it can also be bone loss around the area. This will require more hygiene visits and special treatment along with good at home oral care.

7mm and above with bleeding is the advanced stage of periodontal disease. This will require surgery to repair any bone loss, and frequent periodontal maintenance will be required.

When patients get a score of 3, they should be made aware of how they should be cleaning their teeth and considering the factors affecting their gum health.

Factors affecting your gum health:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Illness
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of oral hygiene
  • Age
  • Medications
  • Genetics
  • Clenching or grinding of teeth

Treatment Options

Your dentist will recommend many surgical and nonsurgical treatment options if your gum measurements go over 5mm. The dentist will suggest you either one based on the condition of your gums.


If the gum disease is not advanced, nonsurgical treatment is an option. There are three ways that your dentist will suggest to go about it:

Root planing: This procedure will smooth the root surface and put off any build-up of bacteria or tartar. It is an intense deep cleaning process.

Scaling: This is a process where bacteria or tartar are manually removed from your mouth with the help of metal instruments or, in some cases, a laser.

Antibiotics: Oral or topical antibiotics can lower the bacteria count in your mouth. Your dentist in Sacramento, CA, might prescribe an oral mouth rinse or gels to help fight the infection caused by bacteria. 


For those who have developed advanced periodontitis, surgery might be the only way to treat the problem.

Soft tissue grafts: The gum line will gradually recede when your mouth starts to lose gum tissue. A soft tissue graft is performed where a small amount of tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and transplanted into the damaged site. 

Flap surgery: Small incisions will be made in your gums at first so that the dentist can perform an even deeper root planing and scaling procedure after that. Once you are healed up sufficiently, the entire area will be much easier to clean. 

Tissue regeneration: If bacteria had destroyed your bone, this tissue regeneration procedure would help regrow it. A piece of biocompatible fabric will be placed between your tooth and the bone, which will prevent the gums from intruding and keeps the bone from growing back. 

How can one use this information to have healthier teeth and gums?

How good you are at oral care at home plays an essential role in ensuring that your periodontal chart looks positive. Brushing and flossing are the first vital steps to maintain healthy gums. Start with brushing two times a day and floss once daily. It would be best to keep in mind to clean above and below the gum line as both are equally important.

Benefits of dental charting

There are countless benefits of keeping a dental chart of your teeth and gums.

Benefits for you

Your dentist can keep a good record of your health issues.

Your dentist can give you the best care possible and track your progress if you have issues that require treatment. 

Benefits for your dentists and hygienists

The chart gives you and your dentist a point of reference to see if you are making significant dental health progress. For example, by maintaining better oral home care, gum pockets could improve.

They can keep a well-organized and easy-to-read track of the health of your mouth.

They can refer to this periodontal chart in future visits and compare your gum pocket depths to see improvement.

They can keep an update along with keeping an accurate record of what is happening in your mouth.

What to Expect During Dental Charting?

If you have not been to a dental office in a while and are going to a new one, you should expect your dental hygienist to perform a complete dental charting of your mouth. You may only need a brief checkup of your mouth and an update of your charting during future visits. If problems require proper treatment, you will most likely need a complete chart to track the improvements at your next checkup.

Your hygienist will begin by counting and numbering your teeth on the chart. Any significant issues you may have will then be assigned to the specific tooth and marked with a shorthand note on the chart. Once your teeth are numbered, your hygienist will begin examining your teeth. Your dentist will then probe your gums to check the depths of your gum pockets. A usual of six readings per tooth is recorded. With the help of an instrument, they will check the tops of your teeth for decay.

After your periodontal charting is complete, your hygienist will clean your teeth, and your dentist will do a thorough examination. After this, if anything is marked on your chart that is of concern, your dentist will look into it and the possible treatments. 

If you are affected by any of the symptoms mentioned above, or have questions it is advised to consult your dentist in Sacramento, CA. We at Soft Touch are available and can guide you on your particular case or answer any questions you have. Give us a call.

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