What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing are dental procedures routinely performed to help treat excessive plaque buildup and early-stage gum disease. If you haven’t had a professional cleaning in a while, or you are more prone to the buildup of plaque than most, your dentist may recommend a scaling and planing procedure. If scaling and planing is in your future, you may want some more information to help you prepare for the procedure.

When Is Dental Scaling Necessary?

Everyone needs routine professional dental cleanings. While regular brushing and flossing help remove plaque, professional cleanings are needed to get difficult to reach areas. If teeth are not adequately kept clean, the buildup of plaque overtime can lead to gum disease. When gum disease starts to occur, the tissue around the teeth becomes loose and pulls away from the teeth and pockets between the teeth and gums begin to form. The disease will worsen as plaque continues to build within these pockets. If your dentist identifies pockets along your gumlines they may recommend dental scaling.

The Scaling and Planing Procedures

A standard dental cleaning is focused on cleaning the surface of the tooth, but the goal of scaling is a much deeper cleaning. The cleaning procedure targets the buildup of plaque along and below the gumline. Unlike the professional cleaning that occurs at a routine dental visit, a scaling procedure is not routine and must be scheduled separately.

There are two methods commonly used for dental scaling:

  • Using handheld instruments: your dentist will scrape plaque from the teeth using a metal dental scaler and curette. The dentist will go along and beneath the gumline to access plaque that can’t be reach by your toothbrush.
  • Using ultrasonic instruments: your dentist may use an ultrasonic tool that has a vibrating metal tip combined with a cool water spray to clean the gumline. The tip breaks up the tartar and the water cleans out the pocket.

After the dental scaling your dentist may also perform a root planing. The goal of root planing is to reach under the gums to the tooth’s root and smooth the surface of the root so the gums reattach.

What to Expect After a procedure

Because dental scaling and root planing is more intensive than a routine cleaning, your mouth may feel sore and sensitive after the procedure. For individuals with more sensitive gums, this can include swelling or bleeding for a few days. To help with any discomfort, your dentist may recommend a desensitizing toothpaste and prescribe a mouthwash to help keep your mouth clean. You can also expect your dentist to schedule a follow-up visit to examine the gums and check if the pockets are healing. Fortunately, scaling and root planing have become relatively common treatment procedures and most dentists have a good amount of experience in performing them. You’re not alone if your dentist recommends this procedure for you. It is important to keep in mind that gum disease is reversible, and that after scaling and planing your gums can bounce back and return to healthy condition. If your dentist has recommended a scaling procedure for you, do not hesitate to get it scheduled today.

More About Scale & Root Planing : Deep Teeth Cleaning Aftercare