Here at OraWellness we talk a lot about the importance of feedback loops to successfully address gum disease…
Actions we can personally take to help know that we are heading in the right direction on our path to optimal oral health.
There are many things we can do in the comfort of our own home that provide us tremendous insight and feedback whether the actions we are taking to improve our oral health are actually helping or not.
We consider ‘getting to know your mouth’ to be the first step to dental self-empowerment. Also important is tracking your saliva pH as the acid/alkaline balance in the mouth provides us with a quantitative measure to actually see that what we are doing is helping or not.
However, part of what we call ‘dental self-empowerment’ is knowing when to enlist the help of our dental team to assist us in gathering important, measurable information to determine that we are heading in the right direction.
One important piece to the puzzle is a simple test most dental offices do – the Periodontal Depth Test.
What is a periodontal depth test?
This simple test is a measurement of the depth of the gum pockets around each of our teeth and go a long way toward helping you have a successful periodontal treatment. You may recall being in the dentist’s chair while the dentist is poking around your mouth and calling out numbers to their dental assistant like, “2,3,2… 3,4,2… 2,2,3…” etc.
This is your dentist performing a periodontal depth test.
This test measures how deep the gum pockets are at 6 points around each tooth in your mouth.
Why is the periodontal depth test important?
The periodontal depth test provides us with some very helpful feedback.
1. How long gum disease has been active in our mouth
Gum pockets start at 1mm deep and as the infection progresses over months and years, the pockets become deeper.
2. What specific areas are most infected
By knowing what specific areas are most challenged, we can focus our home care to address those areas of greatest stress.
3. Knowing the actual depth measurement (in millimeters) is critically important to be able to determine how to best plan your home care habits. If the measurements are greater than 4mm deep, you’re going to need specialized tools and education to know how to most effectively address this issue.
Why it’s important to request a copy of your test to take home
While it’s great for your dentist to have a record of the depth of your gum pockets, this information is much more precious to have in the hands of someone empowered to take greater care of their oral health.
After all, the dentist isn’t the one who is going to be making sure to disrupt and disorganize the bad bugs implicated with gum disease on a daily basis through their diligent home care. You are.
Having a recent record of your gum pocket depths provides you a powerful view of exactly what areas around which teeth need the most attention.
What you can do with your periodontal depth test at home…
We encourage our OraWellness community (that’s you!) to put the periodontal depth chart (the record from your dentist) in a plastic sleeve and have it handy in your bathroom for regular review. Best is to put your chart back to back with a copy of your OraWellness Mouth Map where you recorded your own findings in your mouth.
Not only does the chart show you which teeth have the most challenging areas, it also tells you exactly where around each tooth you need to focus more attention.
What the periodontal depth test doesn’t tell us…
While the periodontal depth test is helpful, it doesn’t tell us everything.
Here’s what the periodontal depth test doesn’t tell us…
1. How active the gum disease is today.
You can have gum pockets that aren’t active because you have taken appropriate action to address the infection. What the periodontal depth test does tell us is how active gum disease has been in your life, not how active it is today in your mouth.
2. What specific types of ‘bad bugs’ are thriving in your gum pockets.
This knowledge of what species of bugs are colonizing your gum line is a tremendous bit of information to determine what stage of gum disease you are dealing with.
Tests to determine specific bad bug species range from in-office live tests to sending out samples to a lab.
Our favorite is when the dentist takes a plaque sample and puts the sample under a certain type of microscope (science buffs out there, it’s called a phase contrast microscope). It’s very powerful when you see for yourself the activity that swims around your gum tissue. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you can imagine how motivated you might be after seeing live activity of bad bugs from your gum line!
This in-office test can also provide the very empowering feedback once you have been actively caring for your oral health. Imagine how good it would feel to go back to your dentist and have them show you on their microscope that you have successfully eliminated the nastiest species of bad bugs!
Is it actually possible to reverse the damage of gum disease?
Conventional dentistry generally agrees that gum disease is a slow, irreversible destruction of the gum tissue and underlying jaw bone. And arguably, we understand why they have this perspective. After all, they are thinking from the standpoint of the dental team addressing this issue.
However, when a person accepts responsibility for their own oral care, ‘dental miracles’ can and do happen all the time. (After all, each of us got ourselves into this situation. If we think that someone else is going to be able to bail us out we’re fooling ourselves.)
Here’s a link to what originally was a very long testimonial from a woman who applied the techniques and education we teach in our HealThy Mouth System. We ended up turning it into a case study. There’s nothing special about what this woman did to successfully reduce her gum pockets. And you’ll be shocked how quickly she was able to accomplish her ‘dental miracle’.
The bottom line is when we understand the situation and take a path proven to help, it’s amazing how quickly the body responds. It’s as if you can hear the body say, “Ahh, finally we can get to work to heal this situation!”
We have thousands of people in over 50 countries who have stunned their dentists by using the tools and techniques we teach here at OraWellness. We look forward to hearing your success story too.
In a future article, we plan to teach how to read a periodontal depth chart so you can maximize your benefit from the information this simple test provides.
We hope this information helps you along your path to greater oral health. As always, please share this with anyone you know who might benefit from the information.
Helpful, Related Resources
The First Step to Dental Self Empowerment [article and free download]
Tracking your Saliva pH [article and free download]
HealThy Mouth System [product solution]
OraWellness Mouth Map [free download]
Case Study on Advanced Periodontal Disease [article]