Tooth Health: Measure your own pocket depths

By | April 3, 2009

I purchased a tool to measure the pocket depths in my teeth, but the tool didn’t come with instructions. So this post will be my notes to myself regarding my do-it-yourself dental exam.

Pocketchek™ Periodontal Measurement ToolPocketchek™ Periodontal Measurement Tool
Finally, take the mystery out of periodontal pockets and the worry of what your next office visit will reveal. But best of all, use Pocketchek™ to track your periodontal progress using Periogen™!

Unlike the steel-tipped tool used by dental professionals, this plastic wonder couldn’t hurt a fly. Graduated in three millimeter increments, pockets in the “green” are 3mm or less and considered healthy by the dental industry. Pockets deeper than that are crying out for Periogen™!

– globaltonic.com

The tool was under $30, and actually, the gradations on mine are a bit different than the picture above:

pocketdepths1A photo next to a ruler, showing the millimeters on my dental tool.

I have friends who work in dental offices, so I got some instruction tonight.

The gums form a cuff or collar around each tooth. Healthy gums are attached well to the tooth, so don’t force your gums away from the tooth with the tool. Gently insert the measuring rod under the gums and see how far down it goes. Be careful not to force the instrument in, don’t hurt yourself. We are measuring in millimeters (also know as “mm”). If it’s a 1, it’s a 1.

Important: The numeral “1” printed on the ruler in my image above is 1 centimeter (cm) which is 10 mm. You’d have some serious gum disease if you have pockets that deep! 5 mm to 7 mm is bad. 1 mm to 3 mm is normal and means you don’t have gum disease

… assuming that you also don’t have loose, swollen, red, bleeding or tender gums, that you do not have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, and that your teeth are not loose or changing position.  Healthy gums should not bleed when probed. Your head should not bleed when you comb your hair. Similarly, your gums should not bleed when you floss or when you use the probe.

To be able to take notes, it will help to understand how dentists refer to your teeth. Each permanent tooth has a number. If you’ve had your wisdom teeth out, you’d be missing #1, #16, #17 and #32.

numbs

For each tooth, we will do six measurements.

To explain this better, I thought I would need to learn a few dental terms. After reading definitions for terms like “lingual”, “mesial”, “distal”, “occlusal” and “buccal”, “apical”, “coronal”, “incisal”, “labial”, I realized I needed a diagram, or better yet, a video! Here are two simple videos which explain the names dentists use for tooth surfaces.


My friend in the dental business let me know that you should take six measurements per tooth. Here is a sample perio chart showing where those six measurements are made.

peri_chart2

What is suppuration? It is the formation of discharge or pus.

Here is a link to a blank periodontal chart (pdf) you can print out and use for your own measurements.

Okay, got it? Take six measurements for each tooth: right, middle, left on the front, then left, middle, right on the back of the tooth (lingual).

The point of my doing this is that I was told I need a deep cleaning because I have tarter. A tooth of mine broke and I saw the tarter on it. Now I’m using a product called Periogen to try to disolve the tarter without needing the deep cleaning. That’s why I’m going through all of this, because I hate getting those 12 shots that much… not to mention the cost.

2 thoughts on “Tooth Health: Measure your own pocket depths

  1. T

    Aha! Scratch that last comment, I see now that you won’t need to see a dentist to track you Periogen results. Swweet, I’m going to follow in your footsteps. Thanks for the chart. When will you be done with your treatments? Have you already noted an improvement??

  2. Xeno Post author

    I’ve used it on and off for a month and I’ll go in for a cleaning soon.

    I had real problems measuring the pocket depths myself. I could not see the inside well enough, and I began to question if I should really be using a tool to pull my gums away from my teeth thus exposing the roots for germs more.

    The person I spoke to from Periogen has been very helpful. He let me know that no more harm is done yourself than the dentist would. Still you only have your pocket depths measured at a dentist every 6 months or so, if that. So… I still used the formula but didn’t measure the depths. I know this reduces the diagnostic value. I’ll have a cleaning soon and I’ll share my readings and results here when I do.

    As a side note, I had a crown put on today May 12, 2009 on a tooth that chipped deeply and during drilling the doctor made a comment that I have exceptionally hard teeth. He said it was like drilling rock. I wonder if the Periogen hardens existing enamel. I was told it does kill s. mutans on contact and does not harm enamel, but it does dissolve tarter.

    Good luck!

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