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What to Expect During Pocket Depth Reduction

In a healthy mouth, the gums fit snugly around teeth like a sock or a turtleneck. But in people with gum disease, the “elastic” becomes weak. The gums become loose and pull away from the teeth, forming “pockets” just below the gum line. The more severe the gum disease, the deeper the pockets.

Why Worry About Pockets?

Pockets are the ideal space for germs to grow. This can cause infections that eventually destroy the gums and bone. If too much bone is lost, teeth may need to be extracted.

If you have gum disease, a dentist or periodontist, a gum health specialist, will measure the depth of your pockets. People who develop pockets around their teeth need to take good care of their mouths to avoid having to have teeth removed. For healthy teeth:

  • Brush gently at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Pay special attention to the gum line. An electric toothbrush is an efficient tool for plaque control and may be appropriate for you. Ask your dentist or periodontist.

  • Floss between teeth at least once a day.

  • See your dentist or periodontist regularly.

Limiting the Space for Bacteria

One treatment to help avoid tooth removal in people with advanced gum disease is called pocket depth reduction.

This procedure is performed in a periodontist’s office. The periodontist folds back your gum tissue and cleans out the bacteria. Then he or she puts the gums back into place. This procedure provides a healthy environment for healing and reduces the size of the pockets.

In some cases, the periodontist might smooth parts of the bone to help eliminate areas where bacteria can hide when gums reattach to the bone.

“Brushing Your Teeth.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

“Flossing.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

"Gum Disease." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

"Periodontal Pocket Reduction Procedures." American Academy of Periodontology. Accessed 2013.

"What is gum disease?" American Academy of General Dentistry. January 2012. Accessed 2013. 

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