Periodontal (Gum) Charting

Photo of dentist Gordon Laurie BDS
Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team and reviewed by Gordon Laurie BDS
Last updated on January 17, 2021

BPE scores and what they mean

UK, Ireland and New Zealand

Have you ever wondered what the numbers which dentists use during a check-up actually mean? Sometimes, the numbers refer to teeth (you can read more about tooth numbering systems here). But numbers are also used to chart gums. That way, dentists can keep track of any changes in gum health.

In the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, the most commonly used screening tool is the BPE (Basic Periodontal Examination). The mouth is divided into six sections (shown in different colours), which exclude the wisdom teeth:

Each section gets a score, based on the least good finding in that section.

The scoring is as follows:

  • 0 = gingival (gum) pockets less than 3 mm and no bleeding on probing
  • 1 = pockets less than 3.5 mm with some bleeding on probing
  • 2 = pockets less than 3.5 mm with calculus (tartar) present and/or plaque-retaining factors such as overhanging restorations
  • 3 = shallow periodontal pockets between 3.5 and 5.5 mm
  • 4 = periodontal pockets deeper than 5.5 mm
  • * (star added to the score, e.g. 4*) = bone loss that affects the area where the roots of tooth branch


  • 0 = perfect
  • 1 = your gums are a little inflamed – to get rid of the inflammation, clean in between teeth once a day
  • 2 = there is scale/tartar and/or there are restorations present which could retain plaque. Your dentist or hygienist will remove the tartar.
  • 3 = the probe goes a little further under the gum than it should. This is a sign of early gum disease. Don’t panic as this can readily be treated!
  • 4 or 4* = not so good – pockets that are 6-7 mm indicate moderate problems and 8 mm+ indicates severe problems. Regular care will be important to help stabilise things – talk to your dentist and hygienist and consider consulting a periodontist

US and Canada

In the US and Canada, the numbers refer to the periodontal pocket depth readings. Normal, healthy pocket depths are usually 3 mm or less. Numbers may be read out in groups of three, which indicate readings taken from different areas of the teeth. To get an idea of what the different pocket depths mean, see above.

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