Surely having deep pockets is a good thing? In the sense of having a great deal of money, yes, most people would want deep pockets. However, you don't want there to be much depth in your periodontal pockets. But where are these pockets located, and what does it mean when they grow deeper?
An Enlarged Gingival Sulcus
To use its formal term, a periodontal pocket is an enlarged gingival sulcus. This space can be found where your periodontal tissues (your gums) meet your teeth. A small amount of depth is considered to be healthy, and your regular regimen of brushing, flossing, and an appropriate mouthwash or rinse is enough to prevent the accumulation of harmful oral bacteria in these pockets. However, periodontal disease can cause these pockets to deepen.
Pulling Back From Your Teeth
The deterioration of soft tissues (your gums) and hard tissues (your jaw) can cause periodontal tissues at the bases of teeth to loosen—to pull back from a foundation that is no longer healthy enough to support them. This causes the space around your gingival sulcus to deepen, allowing harmful, cariogenic (cavity-forming) bacteria to flourish, and the depth of these pockets means that your own oral hygiene practices will be insufficient to budge them.
The Beginning of the End
Deepening, untreated periodontal pockets can signal the beginning of the end for a tooth. As the underlying deterioration progresses, the tooth's support system (its jaw and periodontal ligaments) will become compromised, leading to tooth mobility (a loose tooth). Extraction might become a necessity. Although a dentist may treat minor periodontal problems themselves, a patient with pronounced periodontal pockets may be referred to a specialist.
Seeing a Periodontist
A dentist who specialises in periodontics (the treatment of periodontal issues) will attempt to reverse your condition. The outer flap of the pocket will be gently drawn back, allowing the site to be thoroughly irrigated. Any deteriorated and irregular bone that has become visible at the base of the tooth may be treated. It will be smoothed out, which encourages your periodontal tissue to reattach itself to this new, suitable foundation. You may also need antibiotics, and you will be required to attend follow-up appointments to gauge the progress of your treatment.
While the treatment for deepened periodontal pockets isn't especially complex, it's not something that should be delayed. If your dentist notes that your periodontal pockets have reached an unhealthy depth, it might be time to see a periodontist.