Scaling and root planing is a dental procedure designed to remove accumulated plaque and tartar above the gumline. Also known as a deep cleaning, scaling and root planing assists with the reduction and management of chronic periodontal disease, an inflammatory condition that affects the gums, tissues and bones.
What Is Scaling and Root Planing?
Ordinarily, a standard teeth cleaning helps to prevent periodontal disease. Ideally, gum tissue should closely surround each tooth, with only a 1mm to 3mm distance between the gumline and enamel.
However, poor dental care causes your gums to separate from your teeth and plaque, tartar and subsequent bacteria can build up in this area, where it progresses under the gums. This process causes pockets of bacteria to form, leading to periodontal or gum disease.
At this stage, professional teeth cleaning may be enough. However, if the pockets are too deep, standard brushing will have no effect and your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing.
Depending on the degree of cleaning needed, scaling and root planing may require more than one procedure. During these sessions, the dentist gives the patient local anesthetic before removing or “scaling” all deposits and bacteria from your teeth and exposed roots. Planing smooths out all exposed surfaces to prevent tartar, plaque and bacteria from accumulating below the gumline. At the same time, your gums will be able to reattach to your teeth, rather than remain exposed.
How Scaling and Root Planing Works
During your appointment, the dentist will start by administering a local anesthetic to decrease sensation. From here, this procedure consists of scaling and root planing.
Subgingival scaling involves cleaning off all plaque and tartar from the teeth and gumline, going into each pocket. The dentist will use a standard or ultrasonic instrument to loosen these deposits below and between the gums and right at the base of the crowns.
Periodontal disease has potential to damage the tooth’s cementum and dentin. Root planing fully removes cementum, which has likely calcified on the tooth’s root, and will take off a thin, superficial portion of dentin below the enamel. This step smooths any rough surfaces that developed as a result of periodontal disease, helps get rid of subgingival bacteria and helps prevent future formation. After planing, the area will be flushed to fully dislodge all deposits.
Following Scaling and Root Planing
Patients should expect to feel some pain, as well as experience mild bleeding or irritated gums, swelling, inflammation and tooth sensitivity in the days following the procedure. Your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse or antibiotic to continue reducing bacterial formation.
Your dentist will schedule a follow-up visit to assess the gum pockets. As your mouth heals, the gum tissue becomes firmer and turns a pinkish color as you experience less bleeding. The gum pockets should also reduce in size.
Patients who have seen some success likely won’t need any additional restorative dental procedures. Instead, they may return every two to four months for routine cleanings and to assess the gum tissue.
Experiencing pain after a recent scaling and root planing procedure? We see same-day emergency visits!