Gingival Sulcus and Keeping Teeth Healthy

The gingival sulcus is the natural space found between the tooth and the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth, known as the free gingiva. Flossing between your teeth removes plaque and food from the gingival sulcus.

During a dental examination, the dentist or dental hygienist may use an instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the gingival sulcus; this is to determine the health of the gums and measure the extent of bone loss as a result of advanced periodontal disease.

Healthy gums generally have a sulcus depth that may range anywhere from 1 to 3mm. Sulcus depths greater than 3mm occur in patients that have varying degrees of periodontal disease. This is referred to as a periodontal pocket.

Dentist working on someone’s teeth
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Plaque and the Gingival Sulcus

As it is a space between the tooth and the gum, the gingival sulcus is naturally a landing spot for plaque. Plaque is known to build up in the gingival sulcus, which can lead to many dental issues.

Plaque is a soft, sticky, and colorless deposit that is continually forming on and around our teeth and gums. It often forms in the space between the teeth and the gum tissue, commonly known as the gingival sulcus. Often undetected, plaque attacks the teeth and gums with the acid it produces from bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria use the sugars from foods and beverages along with saliva, to thrive and multiply. This acid attack breaks down the tooth's enamel, causing tooth sensitivity and ending with varying degrees of tooth decay. Plaque is also responsible for gum disease and contributes to bad breath.


Considering all of the damage that plaque can do to the mouth, teeth, and surrounding areas, the prevention of plaque is a very important and central step to dental care. There are two effective methods of plaque prevention. Limiting your overall consumption of foods high in carbohydrates is one way to prevent plaque. Since a high rate of carbohydrate consumption leads to a higher presence of plaque build-up, removing carbohydrates from your diet will limit plaque. Candy, cookies, soda, and other extremely sweet and sugary items should be avoided, especially in excess, to prevent plaque buildup.

Completely avoiding carbohydrates is nearly impossible, however. Thus, frequent brushing and flossing is the second way to prevent plaque buildup. Brushing and flossing twice a day is recommended. Brushing works to loosen and remove plaque that has built up around the teeth. Flossing works to remove food particles and debris that get stuck in between the teeth. By flossing it out, you are providing this bacteria with less of an opportunity to form into plaque. This step is especially important for the gingival sulcus, as it can be difficult to reach this area with a brush and floss. Thus, a conscious effort needs to be made to thoroughly clean the area between the tooth and the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth.

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.