Dental and Periodontal Charting

Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on May 21, 2013


Dental charting is a process in which your dental healthcare professional lists and describes the health of your teeth and gums. It is also called periodontal charting. The charting is usually done at regular dental checkups. It is a graphic method of organizing information about your dental health. After your hygienist creates or updates your dental chart, you should follow up by taking the advice you are given and by coming back for regular check-ups and charting.

What Is Dental Charting?

A dental chart is a graphical tool for organizing all the important information about your teeth and gums. Your dental chart is typically made by your hygienist, who checks out the inside of your mouth with tools and with his or her hands. By investigating your mouth in this way, your hygienist gets information about your teeth and gums, and then makes notes on the chart about any important information that needs to be recorded.

Conditions and issues that may be described in your dental chart include areas of decay on your teeth, cavities, missing teeth, the depths of your gum pockets, abnormalities in your teeth (such as rotations, erosion or abrasions in your teeth or enamel), damage to your teeth, or the presence of prosthetic teeth. Your hygienist will also record information about the attachment of your teeth to the gums, as well as any movement in your teeth and any bleeding in your gums.

The chart your hygienist produces can take a variety of forms, but it is a graphical, or a pictorial, representation of your mouth and shows every tooth. It also includes spaces for making shorthand notations regarding the state of your teeth and gums. If you see your chart, you probably will not understand what the symbols and notations mean.

Reasons for Dental Charting

Your hygienist or nurse creates a dental chart of your mouth because it is a good way of organizing the important information about your dental health. The information that your dentist needs to know in order to assess your dental health can be kept in one place and in a simple format by creating this chart. It should be updated every time you have a dental checkup so that your dentist can track the progress of your dental health.

Benefits of Dental Charting

There are many benefits to creating a dental chart of your teeth and gums. The benefit for your healthcare providers is that they are able to keep an organized and easy-to-read record of the state of your mouth. They can refer back to this chart at future visits and update it to keep an accurate record of what is happening in your mouth.

For you, the benefit of having a dental chart made and updated is that your dentist is able to keep a good record of your health issues. This means that he or she can give you the best care possible and track your progress if you have issues that require care or treatment. The chart gives both you and your dentist a point of reference so you can see if you are making improvements in your dental health.

What to Expect During a Dental Charting

If you are making a first visit to a new dental office, you can expect that your hygienist will perform a complete dental charting of your mouth. At subsequent visits, you may only need a brief check of your mouth and an update of your chart. If you have problems that require treatment, you may need to get a full charting at your next checkup to track improvements.

Your hygienist will begin by counting and numbering your teeth on the chart. Any notable issues you have can then be easily assigned to the appropriate tooth and marked with shorthand notation on the chart. Once your teeth are numbered, your hygienist will examine your teeth. He or she may probe your gums to test the depths of your gum pockets and use a tool to check the tops of your teeth for decay.

After your charting is complete, your hygienist will conduct a cleaning, and then your dentist will do an examination. If there is anything of concern marked on your chart, your dentist will investigate it more thoroughly.

Following Up After a Dental Charting

After a regular checkup at your dentist’s office and a dental charting, your dentist will tell you what you need to do next. If there are issues of concern, your dentist will either give you things to do at home, such as regular flossing, or will schedule another appointment for a needed procedure—for example, a filling for a cavity.

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