Gum pockets or periodontal pockets can be described as openings or small spaces that surround the teeth just under the gum line. Over time, these periodontal pockets can fill up with bacteria which may lead to infections. 

Usually, these gum pockets are apparent symptoms of gum disease or periodontitis, which is a severe oral infection.

Fortunately, good oral hygiene can be enough to treat these unwanted gum pockets, and in more severe cases, dental services will also help address them. However, if they are left untreated for long enough, toot loss may occur, and restoring optimal gum health may require more elaborate procedures, like gingivoplasty, gingivectomy, or gingival flap surgery. 

Still, for the most part, comprehensive gum therapy should be enough to resolve the dental issue. 

In this blog post, we will speak about these periodontal pockets and talk about treatment options as well as preventative approaches and risk factors you should take into consideration. 

About Gum Pockets

Typically, our teeth are snugly held in their sockets by bone and the surrounding gum tissue. However, when a person suffers from gum disease, the surrounding tissue may erode, which leads to the formation of pockets or gaps around the teeth. These periodontal pockets can hold bacteria which can cause damage to the jaw bone. 

And while these periodontal pockets may lead to dental complications, not all of the mare is considered harmful to your health. 

Based on the size of these gaps, experts can also measure their severity.

  • Normal gaps tend to be from 1 to 3 mm in size
  • When the pockets are about 4 to 5 mm, with the presence of gum disease, then experts usually diagnose it as mild or early periodontitis.
  • Dentists talk about moderate periodontitis when the pockets are about 5 to 7 mm.
  • Advanced periodontitis is usually diagnosed when the gaps are 7 to 12 mm large.

The process usually starts with a gum infection called gingivitis, which results from plaque buildup in the mouth.

When gingivitis goes untreated, it will slowly become periodontal disease, which can turn into periodontitis or late-stage periodontal disease. 

Periodontal Pocket Risk Factors

European Young Woman Smiling While Looking at Mirror in Dental Clinic

Neglecting good oral hygiene is probably among the top risk factors for developing these gum pockets. More precisely, not brushing and flossing at least twice a day can increase the risks, and this is especially the case with those people who are eating high-sugar diets. 

Other factors that pose risks include: 

  • Smoking
  • Taking medicine that causes dry mouth
  • Hormonal changes in cases like menopause and pregnancy
  • Obesity-related insulin resistance
  • Aging
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Lack of vitamin C or vitamin C deficiency
  • Hereditary genetic factors
  • AIDS and HIV infection
  • Leukemia
  • Cancer treatments that weaken the immune system
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Gum Pocket Diagnosis

Because the size of the pockets can help determine the stage of the dental problem, dental experts usually start by measuring the space between the teeth and the gums with the help of a periodontal probe. 

Generally, if the periodontal pockets are deeper than 4 mm, they may raise concerns as most toothbrushes can’t really reach those areas anymore. 

When this is the case, the dentists will further investigate the gums’ condition, and if the situation calls for it, they may perform cleaning or resort to other treatment options. 

When the pockets are deep enough to cause bone loss potentially, the dentist may also perform an additional X-ray to ass the damage to the structure of the tooth/teeth.  

Potential Complications

Since these pockets usually contain bacteria, leaving them untreated can lead to several, more severe problems: 

  • Pus-filled, red, swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Receding gum line
  • Bone loss
  • Tooth loss

Treatment Options

As mentioned above, the size of the pockets will also dictate how dental experts will deal with them. If the pockets are deep enough, the condition of the jawbone and the gums will also be assessed. 

Dental Cleaning

Smaller periodontal pockets will usually only require professional cleaning accompanied by forming good oral hygiene habits at home. Naturally, the dentist will give the patient the necessary recommendations and guidance regarding brushing and flossing and might also advise using an antibacterial mouthwash,

Root Planing and Scaling

Done with an ultrasonic or laser device, this non-surgical dental treatment removes plaque, bacteria, tartar, and plaque from the teeth area. Additionally, the procedure smooths out the surface of the gum tissue so it can reattach to the tooth easily, shrinking the pocket.

Dental experts may also place an antibacterial gel in the pocket to get rid of bacteria and combat inflammation. 

Gingival Flap Surgery

When the pockets are deep, and there was damage to the jaw bone, but the tooth can still be saved, the dentist may advise gingival flap surgery performed by a periodontist.

During the procedure, the expert makes an incision in the gum, allowing to lift and flap back a position of the gum tissue. If the bone tissue has been damaged, the expert will smooth the remaining bone down, getting rid of bacteria-ridden grooves. When all this is done, the expert will suture the tissue back in place.

Gingivectomy

This procedure removes and essentially reshapes parts of the seriously damaged gums when both the gums and the tooth-supporting bone are both injured. Gingivectomy will usually involve removing excess gum. 

Gingivoplasty

Gingivoplasty is another procedure that may be used to address the problem of gum pockets and damaged tooth structures. The process consists of reshaping the gums. Some call the procedure gum recontouring. This may also help with the treatment of decayed teeth or teeth that are broken in the gum line’s area.

Prevention

African American Male Dentist Making Treatment in Modern Clinic

While gum pockets can have serious consequences, their occurrence can be efficiently prevented with smart lifestyle habits.

As such, the following can help prevent the formation of periodontal pockets: 

  • Brushing twice a day with a soft-bristle brush (or even an electric toothbrush)
  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste
  • Using plaque-dissolving mouthwash
  • Regular flossing
  • Avoid dry mouth by sipping water, chewing sugar-free gum, avoiding alcohol, caffeine,
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit the consumption of sugary foods
  • Avoid junk food and eat more vegetables and fruits high in vitamins
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleaning

Don’t Wait With Periodontal Problems

In most cases, these pockets point to advanced gum disease, which shouldn’t be left unchecked and untreated. The size of these pockets and the condition of the surrounding gum tissue will signal the best course of action to take, which will be determined by your dental expert.

These gaps can lead to severe problems such as infection, bone loss, and tooth loss. 

Fortunately, with regular brushing and flossing (at least twice a day), you can dramatically decrease the risks of pocket formation. Also, by scheduling regular professional dental cleanings, you can keep your dental health under good control.

That being said, if you have any questions or concerns regarding periodontal problems or wish to schedule an appointment with an expert, feel free to contact our dentistry and experience exceptional care and services.