Scaling and Root Planing

Graphic explaining scaling and root planing dental procedure

Scaling and root planning treats gum disease below the gumline.

 Why Do I Need It?

Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria on the teeth that causes gum disease. Plaque forms on your teeth continually.  When the teeth aren’t cleaned well, the bacteria in plaque can cause inflammation of your gums. Once inflamed, your gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets which are spaces between the teeth and gums. Plaque gets trapped in the pockets and can’t be removed by brushing. If left untreated, gum disease leads to loss of the supporting bone and possibly even tooth loss.

If gum disease is caught

early and hasn’t damaged the structures under your tooth, a professional hygiene maintenance visit should do. If the pockets in your teeth are too deep, however, scaling and root planing may be needed.

A July 2015 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association finds that scaling and root planing is beneficial to patients with chronic periodontitis (gum disease that has advanced past gingivitis). Chronic periodontitis affects 47.2% of adults over 30 in the United States.

What Happens During Scaling and Root Planing?

This therapy is comprised of two parts. Scaling is when all the plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) above and below the gumline is removed, making sure to clean all the way down to the bottom of the pocket.   Then root planning can begin with the smoothing out of the root surfaces  that are rough from the tartar build-up to help your gums reattach to your teeth. Scaling and root planing may take more than one visit to complete and may require a local anesthetic.

After Care Tips

After scaling and root planing, you may experience mild discomfort for a day or two and teeth sensitivity for up to a week. Your gums may feel tender and bleed slightly.

To prevent infection, control pain or help you heal, your dentist may prescribe a pill or mouth rinse. An antimicrobial medication (subantimicrobial-dose doxycycline) may be inserted directly into the pocket that was cleaned to eradicate the bacteria in the pocket.

You will be scheduled for a follow-up visit to see how your gums have healed and measure the depth of your pockets. If they have not improved, further treatment may be needed.

Good dental care at home is essential to help keep gum disease from becoming more serious or recurring.  Brush your teeth, at minimum, twice a day with a soft bristled brush, clean between your teeth daily using dental floss, eat a balanced diet, avoid using tobacco and see your dentist regularly.

Brought to you by the ADA American Dental Association  Scaling and Root Planing

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