Dental Hygiene Q&A

What is Periodontal Probing?

periodontal-gum-diseaseDr. James or a Hygienist uses a special instrument to take six measurements around each tooth. These measurements are used to determine the bone height and health of your gum tissue.


Healthy gum tissue presents firm and pink. No bleeding is present and periodontal probings are 1-3 millimeters.


Red swollen gum tissue accompanied by bleeding, which is the first stage of gum disease caused by bacterial plaque in the mouth. Periodontal probings are 4mm. Indicated for improved home care (flossing and increased brushing). Periodontal pockets which are 5mm or deeper indicate periodontal disease. This is a condition that occurs when the inflammation in the gum tissue begins to destroy the bone and soft tissue attachment around your teeth. As the disease progresses, pockets of tissue form around teeth, trapping bacteria and tarter, increasing bone loss and may result in loss of teeth.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a soft film, which forms on teeth when you eat sugars and complex carbohydrates. It contains bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

What is Tatar?

Tartar is a hard calcified substance that forms on teeth when plaque combines with minerals in your diet and saliva, and presents as a white, brown or black deposit on teeth. Tartar contributes to periodontal disease by providing a place for bacteria to “hide.” In order to remove tartar, a dental hygienist must use a special instrument.

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical treatment for periodontal disease sometimes referred to as a “deep” cleaning. This procedure is completed by a dental hygienist and involves removal of tartar and bacterial plaque from under gum tissues. The dental hygienist will also smooth root surfaces to encourage reattachment of soft tissues. This procedure is performed in a series of three to five appointments and the patient is given a local anesthetic for comfort (“numbed”). A reevaluation appointment is preformed four weeks after the completion of scaling and root planing. This is an opportunity to evaluate how the tissues have responded to treatment, and determine future needs. Patients who have had scaling and root planing need to return every 3-4 months for regular dental cleanings to maintain healthy tissue.


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  • 9351 Grant Street, Suite 340
    Thornton, Colorado 80229
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5280-whiteDr. Sue James has been recognized as a "Top Dentist" by 5280 Magazine every year since 2008.

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