Why Do Dentists and Assistants Call out Numbers During a Cleaning?

04/19/2018

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Why do dentists and assistants call out numbers to each other during oral exams? Florida Probe

It's a measurement for oral health! Numbers like 18 or 24 are tooth numbers. Calling out 1, 2, or 3 is a measurement of the top of the gum to its attachment to the tooth.   

How are teeth numbered?
Tooth number 1, a molar, is farthest back on the right side and it continues across the top teeth finally reaching number 16 on the left side, another molar. The numbers continue down to the lower teeth from back left, number 17, around to right, number 32. There are 32 teeth in your mouth, if you have them all. But most of have our wisdom teeth removed so we only 28.

How is the distance measured?
Numbers are in millimeters and measured with a periodontal probe with 3mm increments marked on the side to measure depth of the gum pocket next to the tooth to where the gums attach. From 1-3mm is ideal and without bleeding is healthy; 4mm and above indicates some detachment of gum tissue from the teeth and will usually bleed more easily. This space can harbor bacteria and lead to periodontal disease if not brought under control.

What is the process to treat periodontal disease?
The deeper the pockets become the more debris and tartar can hide there and the more virulent the bacteria that can live there. Deeper pockets need a professional to clean them and special instruments and antibiotics to disinfect them.

What technology assist recognizing periodontal disease?
We use Florida Probe, a probing and charting software to detect and diagnose periodontal disease. This computer software records and compares your pocket depths and bleeding numbers over several visits and helps track your health. We can make sure things are trending towards health and if things are changing then we can detect and recommend the appropriate treatment as early as possible to keep the infection from spreading to other areas of your mouth and keep from more expensive or involved treatments.