Bleeding on probing as it relates to probing pressure and gingival health


Niklaus P. Lang, School of Dental Medicine, University of Berne, Freiburgstrasse 7, CH-3010 Berne, Switzerland


Abstract The present study was designed to determine the threshold pressure value to be applied in provoking bleeding on probing (BOP) in clinically healthy gingival units. 12 female dental hygiene students volunteered for the study. They were selected on the basis of excellent oral hygiene standards, absence of probing depths > 3 mm and absence of caries or dental restorations on smooth and proximal tooth surfaces. Applying a probing force of 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1.0 N in one of the 4 jaw quadrants, respectively, on 2 different occasions with an interval of 10 days, bleeding on probing was assessed. Oral hygiene and gingival conditions were determined using the criteria of the plaque control record and the gingival index. On the basis of the BOP values, obtained using the lowest probing force (0.25 N), the subjects were divided into 2 groups: group 1 (“minimal BOP” value) consisted of 6 subjects yielding practically no bleeding (mean BOP = 0.9%) at both examinations, while the subjects of group 2 (“low BOP” value) had slightly higher BOP% (mean BOP =13.4%). Both groups showed significant increase in mean BOP% with increasing probing force (0.9%-36.1% in group 1 and 13.4%-47.0% in group 2). Regression analysis revealed an almost linear correlation and a high correlation coefficient between BOP% and probing force. The comparison of the regression lines of the 2 groups showed almost identical slope inclination. However, slight differences in slope inclination were found for different sites: approximal sites clearly yielded steeper regression lines than buccal/oral sites. The results of the study demonstrated that the BOP test using uncontrolled forces may result in a proportion of false positive readings and that a strong possibility exists for the traumatization of clinically healthy gingival tissues if a probing force exceeding 0.25N is applied.