The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in the form of a sticky, colorless plaque that constantly forms on your teeth. However, many factors (see periodontal disease page) can cause periodontal disease or influence its progression.

Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming “pockets” around the teeth.

Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss. Eventually, too much bone is lost, and the teeth need to be extracted.

Our doctors have measured the depth of your pockets. A pocket reduction procedure has been recommended because you have pockets that are too deep to clean with daily at-home oral hygiene and a professional care routine.

During this procedure, Dr. Crump or Dr. Tunnell folds back the gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria and tartar before securing the tissue into place. In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. This allows the gum tissue to better reattach to healthy bone.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

Reducing pocket depth and eliminating existing bacteria are important to prevent damage caused by the progression of periodontal disease and to maintain a healthy smile. Eliminating bacteria alone may not be sufficient to prevent disease recurrence.

Deeper pockets are more difficult for you and your dental care professional to clean, so it’s important for you to reduce them. Reduced pockets and a combination of daily oral hygiene and professional maintenance care increase your chances of keeping your natural teeth — and decrease your chances of serious health problems associated with periodontal disease.

Mild Periodontitis

Crown lengthening exposes more of the tooth surface

Common Questions

What is normal gum pocket depth?

With healthy gums, the gum tissue fits rather snugly to the tooth – although there is some space between tooth and gums – and are a healthy pink shade. Therefore, a healthy or normal gum pocket depth is considered to be between 1 and 3 millimeters, or approximately 1/8 of an inch. This level of attachment seals off the gum tissue from infiltration by bacteria, which can cause inflammation that results in gum tissue pulling away from the teeth. Additionally, normal gum pocket depth is accompanied by fully intact underlying bone.

What causes deep pockets in your gums?

Pockets develop in your gums when oral bacteria – found in plaque and tartar – attack the gum tissue and destroy the healthy tissue. As the pockets get deeper, more bacteria are able to congregate in them. These bacteria may also eliminate the periodontal ligament that attaches the gum to the tooth, as well as underlying bone tissue in more advanced cases. Periodontal disease, the condition in which deep pockets in gum tissue are found, is a progressive condition. This means that in its earliest stages the pockets are still rather small, but if the gum disease is not treated, the pockets will get deeper.

What pocket depth is considered unhealthy?

Any pocket depth above three millimeters indicates some level of gum disease. Generally speaking, between 3 and 5 millimeters suggests less severe disease, although it still warrants treatment. Pockets that are deeper than 5 millimeters indicate a more advanced form of gum disease and are more likely to be accompanied by the loss of surrounding ligament or bone tissue. Patients who have gum pockets deeper than 3 millimeters should seek gum disease treatment of some sort.

What is pocket reduction surgery?

Pocket reduction surgery, which is necessary when the pockets are too deep to be addressed by a thorough professional dental cleaning, involves pulling back the gum tissue in order to eliminate the disease-causing oral bacteria, and the gums are then reattached to the tooth. If necessary, rough spots on the roots of the teeth, where bacteria may accumulate, will also be smoothed over as a part of this procedure.