Dental benefits

Readers ask, we answer

Madison asks:

“What is my dentist checking when she puts a dental instrument under and around my gums?”

Hi, Madison. Your dentist is, in fact, performing a periodontal exam. With most Delta Dental plans, this exam, as well as regular checkups and cleanings, is covered at little or no out-of-pocket cost to you.

During a periodontal exam, your dentist is checking the health of your gums. At the top of the gumline, teeth aren’t actually connected to the gums. There are spaces or “pockets” that separate them. These pockets can contain bacteria and other indicators of gum disease.

Your dentist inserts a periodontal probe under the gums at various places on the tooth to assess pocket depth. The deeper the pocket, the greater the likelihood that bacteria or gum disease is present.

When your dentist uses a periodontal probe to measure the pockets between your teeth and gums, you may hear her recording numbers. This means that she’s taking note of how many millimeters deep they are.

A healthy pocket is usually between one and three millimeters. If it reaches four millimeters or more, it usually contains significant bacterial buildup, and the gum tissue may be pulling away from the tooth. Your dentist will be able to tell you what the problem is and help you address it effectively.

This part of your checkup may feel strange, but it can help you catch oral health issues early to make sure your smile stays healthy.

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