During your checkup, the dentist will examine your gums. This is called a periodontal examination. An instrument called a periodontal probe is used to gently measure the pocket space between each tooth and gum. This will determine the depth of periodontal pockets. A pocket size of three millimeters is considered normal unless gum recession is present. Generally the more severe the disease, the greater the pocket depth. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. The first step is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling to remove plaque and tartar deposits beneath the gumline, The tooth roots may also be planed to smooth the root surface allowing the gum tissue the heal and reattach to the tooth. In some cases, the occlusion (bite) may require adjustment. Antibiotics or irrigation with antimicrobials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, the dentist may place antibiotic fibers in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planning. This may be done to control infection and to encourage normal healing. When deep pockets between teeth and gums (4 to 6mm or greater are present, it is difficult for the dentist to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. Consequently, surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health.
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