Periodontal Pocket
Oral Hygiene

May 2009
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp

While assessing a dog’s mouth before you start to scale and polish it, you are able to perform the following with your periodontal probe:

 Periodontal Pocket May 2009-01 Periodontal Pocket May 2009-02


The periodontal probe passes under the gingiva and disappears completely.

a) Explain the cause of the defect.
b) How are these defects classified?
c) What treatment options are available for these defects?


a) Periodontal disease is characterized by the loss of bone around teeth.  Initially plaque accumulates on the tooth surface and the bacteria contained herein is responsible initially for a gingivitis to develop.  If this is left untreated the infection may spread to the rest of the periodontium (alveolar bone, periodontal ligament) and through osteoclastic action destroy the alveolar bone.  In a normal dog the sulcus depth around the tooth should be between 1 and 3 millimetres.  This localized loss of bone around a tooth/rooth is called a periodontal pocket.

 Periodontal Pocket May 2009-03  

The yellow arrow on the radiograph indicates the localized area of boneloss called a periodontal pocket.

b) Periodontal probes are graduated.  The specific one in this case is graduated as follows:

Silver strip at tip  = 3mm
First black strip  = 3mm
Second silver strip  = 2mm
Second black strip  = 3mm
Total   11mm

Always make sure you know what the graduations on the probe you use stand for.
Periodontal pockets are recorded in millimeters.

  • 0-3mm Oral hygiene
  • 3-5mm Depending on the size of the tooth, in most medium to large breed dogs these teeth will need cleaning of these pockets with a curette or through open curettage.
  •  >5mm in most case this spells danger for any tooth.  Teeth start to become mobile when >50% of the attachment between the tooth and the alveolar bone is lost.  With >5mm pockets mobility should be carefully assessed and if the tooth is mobile it should be extracted.  These pockets will also invariably expose the furcation areas on many multirooted teeth.  Extractions will be performed on the majority of these teeth.


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