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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Gum Disease -- By the Numbers - 8/10/15

When you hear your dentist or dental hygienist reciting numbers while they're examining the inside of your mouth, you may think they're counting your teeth.  Not so.  They're assessing your gum health.

"Gum health can be assessed with a calibrated dental instrument," says Martin Hogan, DDS, Loyola University Medical Center.  "The pocket between the gum and the tooth or root is measured.  Dentists will often take measurements of the pocket depth to get a feel for the health of a patient's gum tissue. Healthy gum tissue will usually yield numbers of less than 4 mm. Higher numbers indicate that the tissue is inflamed and some dental treatment may be necessary."

Typically, 1 -- 3 mm is healthy, 4 is a warning and anything over 5 is a call to action to prevent disease. When a 5 or 6 mm pocket is recorded, a deep cleaning may be recommended. Patients are numbed and we use special instruments to remove the buildup," says Hogan.  "Then they're scheduled for regular cleanings every three months until their gum health has improved."

The American Dental Association says gum disease and tooth decay account for about 90 percent of tooth loss.   Researchers agree gum disease is largely preventable through regular brushing, flossing and dental cleanings. 

Not all patients, though, like to floss their teeth and many don't know how to properly brush them.  If you're one of those patients, ask your dental hygienist for some tips on cleaning your teeth the right way.  Your efforts to prevent gum disease can save you from paying for costly dental work not to mention the pain that often accompanies cavities and tooth loss.

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