The numbers mean we are assessing the health of your periodontal bone and gums. These are the structures that support and surround the roots of your teeth. There is a narrow collar of tissue above the bone, which we call a pocket. A normal pocket depth is anywhere between 1 and 3 millimeters.
When pockets become deeper, around 4 to 5 millimeters, they are more difficult to clean. At this depth, the pockets are a warning to us that gum disease may be present, and we need to address the problem before it gets worse.
Anything over 6 millimeters is concerning and needs to be addressed promptly to stop the progression of the periodontal disease. Not doing so can cause severe bone loss and eventual tooth loss.
Because it is impossible to tell whether your own gums are forming pockets, it’s important to visit your dentist twice a year so these measurements can be taken. Gum disease often presents with no symptoms whatsoever, but it is possible to stop the progression in its earliest stages. Once gum disease has taken hold at a more serious level, it can be treated but not cured.