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What is Scaling and Root Planing?

If your dentist thinks you may have started to develop gum disease, they will likely recommend a deeper professional cleaning like the scaling and root planing procedure. Dental scaling and planing is a dental treatment procedure designed to treat excessive plaque buildup and the early-stages of gum disease. If you haven’t had a professional cleaning recently or you are more prone to plaque buildup, your dentist may recommend a scaling and planing procedure. Here is more information about the scaling and planing procedure to help you get a better idea of what to expect.

Who Needs Scaling and Root Planing?

Everyone needs professional dental cleanings. Daily brushing and flossing play an essential role in removing plaque, but professional cleanings are still needed to clean the difficult to reach areas. Without professional cleanings, plaque can build up overtime and eventually lead to the development of gum disease. When gum disease develops, it causes the tissue around the teeth to become loose and pull away from the teeth. Pockets will form between the teeth and gums. If a dentist identifies pockets along the gumline they will recommend dental scaling.

What is the Scaling and Planing Procedure?

The goal of the dental scaling and planing procedure is to get a deeper cleaning than a standard professional cleaning. A routine standard cleaning procedure targets the buildup of plaque along the gumline. The scaling and planing procedure is designed to carefully clean and remove the buildup of plaque beneath the gumline and help restore the gums to a healthier state.

There are two methods commonly used for dental scaling:

  • Handheld instruments: With handheld tools the dentist will carefully scrape plaque from the teeth below the gumline using a metal scaler and curette. The dentist will go beneath the gumline to access plaque that can’t be reach with a toothbrush.
  • Ultrasonic instruments: Using an electric ultrasonic tool that has a vibrating metal tip combined with a cool water spray, the dentist will clean the gumline. The vibrating tip removes the tartar buildup and the water cleans out the pocket.

After the scaling procedure the dentist may also decide to perform root planing. Root planing is when the dentist smooths the surface of the root’s tooth so the gums reattach.

What to Expect After the Scaling Procedure

Dental scaling and root planing is a more intensive treatment than a routine cleaning. After the treatment it is normal for the mouth to feel sore and sensitive. For individuals with sensitive gums, the procedure can cause swelling or bleeding for a few days. To help with discomfort, your dentist may recommend a desensitizing toothpaste and prescribe a mouthwash. Your dentist will also schedule a follow-up visit to examine the gums and check if the pockets are healing as they should be.

If your dentist has recently recommended a scaling and planing procedure, you are not alone. Fortunately, this intensive cleaning treatment is relatively common and most dentists have experience with it. Gum disease is reversible, and a scaling and planing treatment can help your gums return to a healthy condition.

Dental Scaling Aftercare

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