The dentist uses a gum probe with a blunt or tiny ball shaped tip which tucks just under the gumline and runs this probe all the way round your gumline on both sides of the teeth. All teeth should be checked. You will be given a score for 6 areas of the mouth: upper right, front, left, and lower right, front, left.
If the gums are healthy they will be pink and firm and will not bleed when this is done. The gum probe will sit just under the gumline, going down no more than 3.5mm. This gives you a score of 0, the best score!
If the gum bleeds anywhere when this is done it is a sign plaque has been left at the gumline causing gum inflammation and is an early indicator of gum disease. However this is a reversible change and with good oral hygiene the gum can return to health. This bleeding gives you a score of 1.
If tartar deposits are seen above the gumline, or felt with the gum probe below the gumline you are given a score of 2. You will need these deposits to be removed by the dentist of hygienist as you can't brush these away.
If the gum probe is able to slip a little deeper down under the gum this is a sign that both the gum is a little inflammed and swollen, and that the bone is receeding under the gum due to gum disease. There is a black band on the gum probe from 3.5mm-5.5mm. If the gum probe goes into this zone you have moderate gum disease here. Gum inflammation can improve but bone that has receded under the gum won't grow back. So this is an irreversible change and you will need close gum monitoring.
If the gum probe slips deeper, over the 5.5mm mark this shows advanced gum disease and that there has been quite significant bone recession under the gum. It may mean the lifespan of that tooth is affected.
Most people get a little bit of tartar building upper behind their bottom front teeth because there is a fairly high mineral content in the saliva that comes out of the saliva gland under your tongue. This means any plaque left here can quickly become mineralised turning into hard tartar. Most people will have a little bit of bleeding with the gum probe somewhere in their mouth. So a typical BPE score will look like this.
0 0 1
0 2 0
But of course we always want you to aim for zeros all round!
So now you know what your BPE score means you can ask your dentist to tell you and keep tabs on your progress. Knowledge is power!