Why does my hygienist poke me with sharp objects?

The joke goes,
Hygienist: Your gums are bleeding
Patient: Yes because you just poked me with sharp objects

So why is this done?

First let’s get a little back story…
Most people focus on cleaning the part of the tooth they can see, but there is more to the tooth than meets the eye. Your tooth, of course, extends below the gum line and this needs cleaning too. Cleaning below the gum-line is done via a combination of flossing and regular dental visits.  If left uncleaned it can cause irritation and inflammation of the gum tissue around it. If left too long in this condition your gum will be softer and more “spongy”.  If it gets too spongy it can’t hold teeth as well and you run the risk of your teeth literally falling out. Think of something set in concrete vs a sponge.

Ok, back to the original question

That pointy sharp object you are being poked with is measuring the sponginess of your gum tissue. Oh, and that pointy tool is called a periodontal probe. There is a small space between your teeth and the gum tissue (pocket). The hygienist presses the perio probe in this area and checks how far down it goes. The periodontal probe has lines on it that indicate how deep it has gone. Each line represents a millimeter. The softer your sum tissue is the further down the probe will go.

Your pockets are then recorded by how many millimeters the probe went down. 1-3 is normal. 4 and above indicates the need for treatment.

Sooo my hygienist said my pockets are too deep (and I don’t think she meant I have a lot of money)

Scaling and Root Planing is a common procedure performed to help treat periodontal problems (you’ll also hear it referred to as a deep cleaning). It is going below the gumlines and removing the plaque and tarter and smoothing the root. Once this is done it irritants are gone and allows the tissue to become more “firm” and provide better retention for your teeth.

Long story short

Poky tool tells the hygienist how healthy your gums are.