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Newton, MA 02459

Why does the dentist poke my gums?

Going to the dentist, while necessary, isn’t always the most pleasant experience. Your dentist and hygienist know this and do their best to provide you with the best care with the most comfort when you come in for checkups and cleanings. 

There are many things that your dentist and/or hygienist will do during your twice-annual visits.
One of these things is dental charting, or periodontal charting, where the dentist pokes your gums, or so it feels. What they are actually doing is checking how healthy your gums.

What is periodontal charting?

Periodontal charting is a technique used by dentists to measure the space between your gums and your teeth, or the ‘pocket’, to determine if you have signs of gingivitis or periodontal (gum) disease. The size of these pockets is an indicator of the health of your gums. The smaller the pocket, the healthier your gums. 

You’ll often notice the person poking your gums is noting their findings. Using a periodontal chart, which has a space to record each of the six measurements taken around each tooth in millimetres, the pockets around your teeth will be noted. Your hygienist will use this information to give you custom advice on how to keep your gums healthy. 

What are the symptoms and risk factors of periodontal (gum) disease?

Some symptoms can point to periodontal disease, including: 

  • depths of your gum pockets, bleeding points during probing, and gum recession
  • abnormalities in your teeth
  • persistent bad breath
  • sensitive or bleeding gums
  • damage to your teeth
  • movement in your teeth

There are a number of factors that can affect your risk for gum disease. Controllable factors include (poor) oral hygiene, smoking and tobacco use, and diet. Uncontrollable factors include family history, hormonal fluctuations (puberty, pregnancy), chronic illnesses (diabetes, cancer), and medication use. 

Dental charting is just one of the ways that your hygienist checks your oral health. That’s why it’s important to make it to your 6-month hygienist appointment regularly. If you feel like your gums are more sensitive than usual or bleeding, book an appointment to see your hygienist.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3