What is Scale and Root Planning

A typical dental exam and cleaning will include the dental professional scraping your teeth to remove any plaque or tartar buildup that could lead to gum disease. Scaling is a deeper cleaning, not just focusing on the portion of your tooth that sits above the gum line.

Understanding Scaling

For people who suffer from gum disease, scaling is a common treatment to stop the progression of it. Scaling cleans the surface of the tooth as well as below the gumline to remove all the bacteria causing plaque. The dentist may recommend a deep cleaning but it is actually a scaling and root planning. It is not necessary for all cases of gum disease but for the more advanced cases, it will help the gums return to a healthier state.

When Is Dental Scaling Necessary?

No matter how well you brush and floss at home, you are going to have some plaque buildup which will lead to bacterial growth in your mouth. Your teeth are almost always covered with a combination of saliva, bacteria, and proteins which form a film that traps acids and sugars from the foods you eat. The debris is a source of food for the bacteria and as the bacteria multiply, they cause infections and inflammation in the gums. If you take time to brush twice a day with a soft bristled brush, floss, and rinse with an oral solution, you are doing your part to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
When your gums are free from the infection and inflammation of gum disease, they will fit snugly against your teeth. The tight seal will prevent bacteria and plaque from going below the gum line. A healthy gum will attach to the tooth one to three millimeters below the gumline forming a small pocket.
As your pockets grow to four or five millimeters, the gums are starting to be affected by gum disease. The larger pockets allow for places for the bacteria to hide and grow. The dentist will recommend scaling to address this plaque and to reduce the pocket size.

Scaling and Root Planning Procedures

During the process of dental scaling, the dentist will carefully remove bacteria and plaque from your tooth just below the gumline. The dentist may use a hand held tool to scrape the surface or the dentist may turn to an ultrasonic instrument to clean your teeth. The metal tip of the tool vibrates and is combined with a stream of cool water to flush away anything that is scraped off.
Root planing reaches deeper to the root of the teeth and is completed the same way that scaling is. Root planing removes anything preventing the gums from reattaching properly to the surface of your tooth root.

What Does Scaling Feel Like?

If a regular dental cleaning irritates your gums or your gums are sensitive, then dental scaling can be uncomfortable. The dentist can easily address this with local anesthesia to desensitize your gums. Be sure to talk to the dentist about your options before the procedure and the dentist can review your different options to decrease the pain and discomfort.
Dental scaling may need to be completed over the course of more than one appointment allowing the dentist to divide the mouth up into different quadrants for treatment.

Is Scale and Root Planing Painful

Scroll to Top