Techniques for Using a Periodontal Probe


What is a Periodontal Probe?


A periodontal probe is the most reliable instrument used to consistently determine the depth of periodontal pockets.


Periodontal probes vary in design and are distinguished by the millimeter markings that appear at varying intervals to determine pocket depth measurement.


Types of Periodontal Probes:


A Williams Probe was designed to minimize the need to estimate the millimeter readings between markings at 1,2,3,5,7,8,9,and 10.


The Marquee Denver probe readings are alternated color coded into 3 mm measurements; 3,6,9,12.


Plastic Implant Probe have red and green markings; green indicates perio health, red indicates possible disease. Available in both readings: 3,6,9,12 and 3,5,7,10.


How to use a Periodontal Probe:


To properly measure a periodontal pocket, insert a probe under the gingival margin into the sulcus until tissue resistance is felt at the junctional epithelium.


Establish a fulcrum (finger rest) on the working arch to help control and stabilize your hand position lessening the chance to cause injury to the gingival tissue.


Slowly and gently insert the tip of the probe just under the gingival margin.


Avoid pushing down too hard or fast because the tip of the probe can puncture the attachment and cause patient pain and inaccurate measurement.


Always keep the tip of the probe as parallel as possible to the long end of the tooth.


You might find the probe is obstructed by a ledge calculus. If so, move the probe towards the tissue wall and proceed a little deeper into the pocket, around the calculus.


If the probe will not move, use gentle pressure to reach the bottom of the pocket. When you feel a soft rubber band resistance, you have reached the bottom of the pocket and that is the measurement that you will record.


Measurements are recorded at six places on each tooth:


Three from the buccal and three from the lingual.


 After inserting the probe and recording the disto-buccal measurement, you will keep the probe in the sulcus and gently walk it around the tooth, following the level of attachment to the direct buccal measurement, and record.


Still keeping the probe in the pocket, walk it around to the mesio-buccal. This allows you to follow the shape of the tooth as well as the depth of the pocket. Repeat this procedure for the lingual on all of the teeth in the mouth.


If there are two or more hygienists in the office, sit down as a team to determine which probes you will use how you will read the markings.




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References: Periodontal Instrumentation A Clinical Manual by Pattinson