Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is a dental procedure used to treat periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease. Gum disease is usually caused by plaque buildup, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate your gums, causing your gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. This stage is called gingivitis, an early form of gum disease.

The good news is that gingivitis can usually be reversed with professional teeth cleaning (routine cleaning) and good oral hygiene. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis. At this point, scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) may be used to treat periodontitis.

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing is a deep teeth cleaning procedure used to treat periodontitis, an advanced gum disease. It involves using special tools to remove plaque, tartar (hardened plaque), and bacteria from the teeth surfaces above and below the gum line.

The goal is to remove bacteria and smooth out the root surfaces, stimulating the gums to reattach to the teeth.

Scaling and root planing can also be used to treat pockets of infection that have formed in the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This procedure helps eliminate any bacteria sources that can contribute to gum disease.

The procedure may require multiple visits to the dentist to ensure that all infected areas have been cleaned properly.

Who Should Get Scaling and Root Planing?

A scaling and root planing procedure is recommended for people who have been diagnosed with periodontitis, which is characterized by the destruction of bone and tissues supporting teeth.

In periodontitis, the gums begin to recede and pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria can grow and spread. Dental plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) accumulate in these areas, causing more inflammation. Over time, these pockets become deeper and the disease progresses, leading to loose teeth and tooth loss.

Risk Factors for Periodontitis

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain medications that cause dry mouth
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • Stress
  • Family history of gum disease

What Happens During Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing are performed by a dentist or periodontist (a gum specialist). The procedure begins with an examination of the teeth and gums to assess the extent of the infection. The procedure may require multiple visits to the dentist and can be performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain.

Scaling involves removing plaque, tartar, and bacteria that have accumulated on the teeth surfaces above and below the gum line. The process is usually performed using special dental tools, including ultrasonic scalers, hand scalers, and curettes. The dental professional will use these instruments to reach deep below the gum line to remove bacteria, plaque, and tartar that are causing inflammation.

Root planing involves thoroughly cleaning the tooth roots and smoothing out any rough spots or surfaces that may harbor bacteria and other harmful substances. By doing this, the gums can heal and reattach to the teeth, eliminating the pockets where disease-causing bacteria can thrive.

Scaking and root planing procedure
The periodontist uses a periodontal scaler to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line.

In severe cases of periodontitis, your periodontist may perform a flap surgery, which involves lifting the gums to gain access to clean and smooth the roots. Also, bone grafting and tissue regeneration may be used to repair any damage that has been done to the bone and soft tissues. You can read more about a bone graft for periodontitis.

When scaling and root planing are combined with good oral hygiene, proper nutrition, and regular appointments for checkups and cleanings, you can help keep your gums healthy and reduce the risk of gum disease progression.

What to Expect After The Procedure?

Most people experience some minor discomfort and sensitivity following a scaling and root planing procedure. This is normal and should not last longer than a few days. Your periodontist may suggest taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and using an antiseptic rinse after your appointment to reduce any inflammation.

Your periodontist will also provide instructions on how to care for your teeth and gums following the procedure. This may include brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing regularly, rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash, and avoiding hard or crunchy foods.

Follow-up appointments will be scheduled so your periodontist can monitor the healing process and check for any signs of infection. It is important to attend these follow-up visits to ensure successful treatment. If you experience any pain or discomfort following a scaling and root planing procedure, it is best to contact your periodontist right away.

Scaling and Root Planing – Conclusion

Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning that involves the removal of plaque and tartar buildup from above and below the gum line. The procedure is recommended for patients with periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease characterized by the destruction of bone and tissues supporting teeth.

Scaling and root planing may or may not require anesthesia, depending on the extent of treatment. Follow-up visits with a periodontist may be required after the initial procedure to monitor healing and determine if any additional treatment is necessary. It may also be necessary to modify your home care routine to maintain the results achieved by deep cleaning.

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