What is scaling and root planing?

If you have advanced periodontal disease, one of the non-surgical treatments you will need is scaling and root planing. This helps to clean the plaque from your teeth and deep beneath the gum line. Here is more information about the procedure and what you can expect.

What is the purpose of scaling and root planing?

This procedure is done when a regular tooth cleaning won't be effective. If you have large calculus deposits, also called tartar, on your teeth below the gumline, it causes the gums to lift from the teeth. When they do this, there is more room for food and bacteria to get lodged inside. This can lead to infection and a host of other oral health problems. With scaling and root planing, the tools get deep beneath the gumline to remove that tartar and allow the gums to sit snugly against the teeth.

How is it performed?

The first step of scaling and root planing is to numb the area. While numbing is not done for a traditional tooth cleaning, it is done for this procedure, since the tools will get below the gumline down to the roots of the teeth. A local anesthetic is usually all that is needed. Once the area is numbed, the dentist first uses the ultrasonic machine to remove tartar from the tooth surface, only going slightly below the gumline. Once the surface is clean, scraping tools are used to get beneath the gumline, going down to the roots to remove all tartar and plaque from the teeth.

What does it feel like?

Since the area is numbed, you shouldn't feel much while the procedure is being performed. However, you might feel some pressure against the teeth when the ultrasonic machine or scraping tool is being used. After the procedure is complete and numbing begins to wear off, expect to have sensitive gums. They might also be slightly swollen due to the scraping. Bleeding should not occur after the procedure, so let your dentist know if you have a considerable amount of bleeding or severe pain. You may be asked to take an over-the-counter pain reliever before the anesthetic wears off to reduce discomfort.

What are the aftercare instructions?

Your teeth may be a little more sensitive after having scaling and root planing performed, so use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The best aftercare instructions to follow are practicing good oral hygiene. Make sure you are brushing and flossing twice a day. Your dentist might advise you to brush more often, such as after every meal. You may also want to use mouthwash to get rid of more food debris and keep your gums and teeth as clean as possible.