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Scaling and Root Planing


Patients suffering from mild to moderate gum disease often benefit from scaling and root planing. During this non-invasive treatment, a dentist or hygienist removes bacteria from deep within pockets which have formed around the tooth roots. Then the roots are smoothed to discourage bacteria from coming back and harboring in the microscopic crevices. Scaling and root planing, also known as a deep cleaning, involves minimal discomfort and virtually no recovery time. At the same time, it can have lifelong benefits for a patient’s oral and overall physical health. Dentists will provide appropriate periodontal care at the first indications of periodontal disease. In this way, they can minimize patients’ risk of permanent damage, such as tooth loss, as well as the need for surgical intervention.

girl in dentist's chair

Cleaning teeth below the gumline can resolve periodontal disease.

Candidates for a Deep Cleaning

A dentist will conduct a thorough evaluation to determine whether scaling and root planing is the most appropriate solution. In milder cases, a regular professional cleaning may be sufficient. On the other hand, if a patient has particularly deep pockets around their tooth roots, they may require a tissue graft. In less advanced stages of gum disease, patients may experience several symptoms, including:

  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Redness and mild inflammation
  • Dental sensitivity
  • Bad breath

A visual exam, as well as x-rays, can help your doctor determine the severity of gum disease. They will also measure the depth of the periodontal pockets. If a tooth attaches to the soft tissues more than 4mm below the gum line, scaling and root planing is probably appropriate.

Scaling and root planing, also known as a deep cleaning, involves minimal discomfort and virtually no recovery time. At the same time, it can have lifelong benefits for a patient’s oral and overall physical health.

The Deep Cleaning Procedure

The first step of a deep cleaning is the application of local anesthesia. The treatment is conservative, and with an effective anesthetic, no further sedation is typically required. Nonetheless, many practices offer nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation to help anxious patients relax.

Once a patient is made comfortable, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly remove harmful bacteria from deep within the periodontal pockets. Then they will carefully smooth, or plane, the tooth roots. This step is designed to eliminate tiny crevices, which can trap bacteria and lead to recurring bouts of gum disease. Your practitioner may use a manual tool to perform scaling and planing, but ultrasonic scalers are becoming very common as well. A topical antibiotic can also be an effective addition to a deep cleaning.

Unchecked periodontal disease can seriously compromise the health of your teeth.

Aftercare and Recovery

Scaling and planing requires no recovery time, although patients may experience some moderate discomfort after treatment. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and anti-sensitivity toothpaste should be sufficient to manage these effects. Some minor bleeding and swelling is also common. For this reason, dentists often recommend a soft diet for a few days after a deep cleaning. It is also wise to avoid spicy and crunchy foods, as these can irritate the sensitive gum tissue. While careful brushing around the treatment site is required, patients should not have any limitations on their activities. In fact, most people can return to work directly from their appointment.

The Vital Importance of Periodontal Treatment

Timely gum disease treatment and ongoing maintenance are important for both your dental and physical health. Periodontitis spreads rapidly, so without medical attention, tooth loss is a very real concern. In severe cases, patients could suffer from jawbone recession or even a life-threatening bone infection. Those with gum disease also face a higher risk for complications during pregnancy, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. For all of these reasons, it is critical that patients attend regular dental check-ups and seek treatment as soon as they notice any signs of gum disease. Scaling and root planing can have lifelong benefits for an individual’s health, smile, and overall well-being.

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