Imagine yourself at the dentist office, mouth agape and probably with a ridiculous and uncomfortable look on your face. Your mouth has the strange feeling of being dry due to it being open for an extended period of time, while also drooling uncontrollably at the side of your mouth. Your jaw is sore and you constantly feel like you are slumping into the chair. Add to this, you feel lost as you try to understand the dentist spouting out a long list of numbers to the dental assistant as each tooth is being poked. This agonizing scenery is the backdrop for the very important question that Megan Hill dives into her article “Toothy Truthy”: what do those numbers mean about the health of your teeth?
Numbering Your Teeth
When the dentist is numbering your teeth, the first number is a code to identify the type of tooth being examined (e.g., incisor, canine, molar, etc.). The second number is your score on the Periodontal Chart, which checks for periodontal disease in your gums on a scale of 1-6. The higher the number on the chart, the more likely you have poor gum health, which could lead to tooth loss. Your chart score is determined by the dentist using a tool to poke between the gum and tooth and assess the health. Each number is actually a millimeter measurement, and a tooth can be measured up to six times. A score of 1-3 means the tooth is generally normal and healthy. But, receiving a 4 or more means there is a larger than normal pocket between the gum and tooth. A higher score can also mean there is inflammation/bleeding in the gums, and could be a signal that bone loss or periodontal disease is developing around the tooth.
The British Society of Periodontology estimates that half of the British population is suffering from periodontal disease (also known as gum disease), and 10% are actually suffering from the most severe form of periodontal disease. The World Health Organization ranks periodontal disease as the sixth most prominent disease afflicting mankind. It’s been determined that the leading causes of the disease are poor oral hygiene, diabetes, genetics, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and stress. Megan Hill ends her article with some sage advice: “Book that check-up!”