Pyorrhea is an antiquated term, but many may still know Periodontal Disease or gum pockets by its old name.  Periodontal disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss in America. Thankfully, gum pockets are reversible with proper oral hygiene and other treatment options if the pockets are deeper. We’ve outlined information about gum pockets, the factors that can increase your risk, and the treatments that can help will protect your smile.

Keeping Healthy Gum Pockets

What Is a Gum Pocket?

Sore, red, bleeding gums, which have not yet damaged the tooth-supporting jawbone, are the first phase of gum disease. This first phase is called Gingivitis, and it is completely reversible. Once the gum infection begins to damage the jawbone, permanent damage occurs. With the development of gum pockets, early diagnosis is key.

Gum pockets are also known as periodontal pockets, gingival pockets, or dental pockets. By any name, they’re a problem and need attention. Healthy gums provide vital support for the teeth. A slight gap of just 1 mm to 3 mm will be found between the top of the gum tissue and a tooth when all is well. If that gap widens beyond 3mm, the problem may be a gum pocket.

Risk Factors for Periodontal Pockets

Pockets in gums don’t appear overnight. They appear as the result of unchecked gum disease, or gingivitis. Over time, gum disease that goes untreated can erode gum tissue, creating pockets. These pockets offer an ideal hiding spot for bacteria. Without treatment, this hidden infection can thrive. You may experience gum infection symptoms, including pain, bad breath, and receding gums. If you wait too long to seek help, the bone in the tooth and jaw may be impacted, which can lead to tooth loss.

The list of risk factors for dental pockets is lengthy. It includes:

  • Aging
  • Failing to brush or floss effectively
  • Not seeing your dentist for regular checkups
  • Eating a diet that’s high in sugar
  • Using tobacco
  • Being stressed
  • Being overweight
  • Having crooked teeth
  • Having certain genetic backgrounds
  • Taking certain medications, especially ones that cause dry mouth
  • Experiencing hormonal swings during life events like pregnancy or menopause
  • Having certain medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis

As you can see, the risk factors are broad. It’s not just one circumstance to consider.

What Treatments Reduce Gum Pockets?

Your ability to control whether you’ll deal with dental pockets is limited. As you can see from the list above, some risk factors are within your control, others aren’t. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help.

The proper treatment depends on your oral health and the size of the pocket. Small pockets that are 5 mm or less may be kept in check with professional cleanings and rigorous at-home care. Your dentist may suggest using special antibacterial mouthwashes or a water flosser to assist in keeping the pockets clean and ease inflammation.

If gum pockets are more than 5mm, scaling and root planing is a professional treatment provided in your dentist’s office. Used for moderate or stubborn pockets, it involves getting beneath the gum to remove bacteria and smooth the tooth’s root surface. This allows the gum tissue a fresh start in reattaching.

For deep pockets over 7mm, surgery may be needed. Pocket reduction surgery requires making small incisions in the gum to peel back the gum tissue. Deep cleaning is completed and any underlying bone loss is addressed. Finally, stitches are inserted.

Does your Dentist Check Your Gum Pockets?

Healthy gums are essential for a confident smile. If you’re concerned about gum health, your dentist is a wonderful ally. When you’re ready to make your next dental appointment, call Wekiva Dental. We’re passionate about healthy smiles, so we’ll be happy to help you maintain yours. Contact us today to schedule a visit.