You were probably taught to care for your teeth from a young age. You know brushing your teeth two times a day is the best way to keep cavities at bay and avoid spending extra time in the dentist’s office. But an area of dental hygiene you may not have known much about is gum health. Genetics and poor oral hygiene habits can play a role in deteriorating gum health, including gum disease. When the distance between your gum tissue and your teeth starts to widen in depth, it’s a sign of gum disease. Gum disease can lead to deeper spaces around your teeth called periodontal pockets, and if untreated, a deep gum pocket can lead to tooth loss.
The good news is that understanding what a deep gum pocket is –– along with early diagnosis and treatment –– could help you keep your healthy, beautiful smile for years to come!
What is a Deep Gum Pocket?
Gum pockets are the gaps between the teeth and the gum tissue surrounding them. When the bacteria in your mouth is not regularly cleaned –– either with your daily dental hygiene habits or at regular visits to your dentist –– it will lead to the buildup of plaque on your teeth, especially around the edges of where your gums attach around the neck of your tooth.
This plaque eventually hardens into tartar, which you can’t brush off on your own. You’ll need a dentist or dental hygienist to remove it during a professional cleaning appointment. The toxins from bacteria will ultimately continue to adhere to your hardened tartar and cause inflammation in your gum tissue if it isn’t removed. This will create a condition called gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.
Inflammation and swelling due to plaque and tartar can result in pocket formation between your gums and teeth. As it pulls away from your teeth, your inflamed gum tissue is now the perfect place for more plaque and tartar to hide, deepening the pocket and threatening the health of the bone around your teeth.
Your dentist will use a small ruler called a probe to measure the size of these gum pockets. Healthy gums should fit snugly around each tooth, so a typical measurement is between 1-3mm. If tartar or plaque begins to build up underneath the gums, the tissue will start to pull away from the tooth, deepening the pocket. If a gum pocket is deeper than 3mm, it can be an indication of gum disease. The severity of gingivitis usually determines the depth of the gum pocket.
Treatments for Periodontal Pockets
If you are currently suffering from gum disease or have had it in the past, it’s crucial to receive a deep clean and a scaling every six months. A deep-cleaning method called root planing is a more intensive option prescribed for pockets more than 4mm deep.
During a scaling and root planing procedures, the hygienist will use special dental tools to clean underneath the gum tissue, clearing out tartar, plaque, and bacteria caused by food debris trapped in the pocket.
This can all sound daunting, but luckily gum disease can be managed and treated! You will always need to be diligent about caring for your gum tissue because once you have experienced it, you’re more susceptible to it in the future.
If you don’t already suffer from gum disease, it’s very preventable. By keeping up with regular dental visits and a consistent home-care routine, you’re doing everything you can to lower your chances of developing periodontal pockets. Healthy gums have a shallow pocket that is easy to keep clean, measuring only one to three millimeters in depth.
Here’s what you can do at home to keep your gum pockets shallow and easy to clean:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth twice a day.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or when you see the bristles start to wear.
- Cleaning between your teeth once a day is as important as brushing to prevent gum disease. You can use floss, a water flosser, or another interdental cleaning tool.
- Be sure to follow your dentist’s recommendation for professional cleanings and gum examination. They may recommend more frequent cleanings after treating a severe case of periodontal pockets.
As always, your dentist is the first person you should call if you’re concerned about possible deep gum pockets from gingivitis. He or she will be able to examine your teeth and recommend any necessary treatments.
Our team of doctors here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado believes everyone deserves a healthy smile for a lifetime. Contact our office to learn how we can help restore your smile!