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Scaling and Root Planing for Periodontal Disease

At dental checkups, your dental hygienist professionally cleans your teeth to help keep your gums and teeth healthy. If you do not frequently visit the dentist or have symptoms of gum disease, you may need a periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing.

This may sound like an intimidating procedure if you have never heard of it before but it is a very common, routine process that is incredibly beneficial for your oral health. This article should help calm your nerves by going over the basic information about scaling and root planing.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the tissues around the teeth. Early symptoms of this disease that indicate infection include bleeding and swollen gums. If it goes untreated, the infection will spread and affect the supporting tissues of the teeth, jaw bone, gums, and surrounding ligaments.

Gingivitis is the early stage of this disease and is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene. When plaque on the teeth hardens under the gum line it forms calculus, or tartar, which collects bacteria and causes irritation and inflammation. Tartar can only be removed by a professional and the longer it remains on the teeth, the more it irritates the gums. As the disease progresses it will spread to the tissue and bone and can even result in the loss of teeth.

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

As the gums continue to be infected by the plaque and tartar buildup, swelling will worsen and create a pocket of space between the teeth and gums. This pocket influences further buildup which becomes harder to remove. Dental scaling and root planing is the most common non-surgical way to treat periodontal disease.

During this periodontal cleaning, the plaque and calculus will be removed from under the gum line and teeth to promote gum healing. While this likely isn’t someone’s ideal way to spend an hour or two of their day, it is a critical procedure for those with developing or already developed gum disease.

Benefits of Scaling and Root Planing

Preventing the progression of periodontal disease is the main benefit of scaling and root planing. Even if periodontal surgery is required, scaling and root planing will still be done in preparation because of its benefits. It is a restorative procedure that allows your gums to revert to acting and looking as normal as possible. Shortly after the procedure, your gums should start healing, firming and regain their pink color.

What to expect during the procedure

This periodontal cleaning procedure is different from a standard cleaning because it focuses on the area below the gum line and tooth root to remove plaque and tartar. The entire process can be done in one visit and people typically leave with very little discomfort. First, your tooth roots and gum line will be numbed with a local anesthetic to prevent any discomfort during the procedure.

Your dentist will use a special tool to scale the teeth to remove tartar and plaque buildup both below and above the gum line. There are two different types of scaling tools that can be used; hand-held and ultrasonic. The hand-held instrument consists of a dental curette and scaler that will manually remove the buildup. The ultrasonic instrument removes plaque by chipping off the tartar with a vibrating metal tip followed by water.

There are oftentimes rough spots on the tooth root that can trap bacteria and further promote gum disease. Root planing helps fix these spots by smoothing the tooth root. It also prevents plaque, bacteria, and tartar from sticking under the gum line and creates an environment where the gums can heal and reattach.

Once the anesthesia wears off, you can expect your gums to feel a little tender. This should not be painful and the tenderness will wear off after a few days as your gums start to regain their health. Your dentist may recommend a follow-up appointment or two to ensure the procedure was successful. After scaling and root planing, it is important that you are very conscious of your oral hygiene. To actively prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar you should be brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day and regularly receiving dental care.

Periodontal disease should not be taken lightly as it can have major effects on your oral and overall health. Make sure to talk to your dentist if you have questions or concerns regarding periodontal disease, gum health or scaling and root planing.