What Is the Gingival Sulcus?

Patient looking in mirror and smiling

Think back to your last dental exam: Did Dr. George measure the periodontal “pockets” between your teeth and gums? You may be wondering why – and what exactly she was measuring. It’s called the gingival sulcus, and though it’s quite a mouthful (both literally and figuratively speaking) it’s a lot easier to understand than it sounds, especially when you know what you’re looking at. The gingival sulcus can best be described as the space between the tooth’s surface and the gum tissue that surrounds it. The sulcus is a V-shaped groove that goes around the circumference of the tooth’s base. Simply put, the sulcus is what keeps your gums attached to the tooth’s surface. When we measure the pockets of the gums, we are measuring the sulcus. The sulcus should be no deeper than 3mm. Anything deeper is considered periodontal disease, which can cause and contribute to everything from diabetes to stroke to heart disease. Deep gingival sulcus can cause gum disease because the pocket openings allow plaque and bacteria into the gums and then the bloodstream. If the gingival sulcus becomes too infected or pulls away too far from the teeth, there are methods of caring for this issue that can repair damage and prevent any current damage from worsening. If you do have deep pockets and your gingival sulcus is damaged, Dr. George may recommend something called a root planing and scaling procedure to help deep clean the bacteria and plaque from the teeth and gingival sulcus pockets. A root planing and scaling procedure uses special tools to scrape the plaque from the teeth below the gum line. Then the gums are planed, or smoothed, back to the tooth so the gingival sulcus reattaches itself. In some more severe and advanced cases, root scaling and planing may not be quite enough to repair damage caused to the gingival sulcus by periodontal disease. In these cases, Dr. George may recommend a gum-grafting procedure. Gum grafting entails either transplanting gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth to cover receded sulcus or surgically reattaching loosened sulcus to the teeth. To have your own gingival sulcus checked, schedule your annual or semi-annual oral health exam with Dr. George by calling 724-220-2347 .

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on April 29th, 2019