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When you hear your dentist or dental hygienist reciting numbers while the inside of your mouth is being examined, you may think your teeth are being counted. Not so. Your gum health is actually being assessed.

“Gum health is measured by millimeters on a scale of 1 to about 9 with a calibrated dental instrument,” says a clinical dentist. “The exposed space between the gum and the tooth or root is measured. The more space between the tooth and gum, the higher the number and the greater the likelihood of gum disease.”

Flabby gums are worse than flabby abs, a dentist explains: