What is Periodontal Scaling and Root Planning?

Do you know why dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day? Brushing and flossing are the key to preventing the formation of dental plaque – a sticky film comprising of food particles and bacteria that can damage your teeth and gums. While brushing and flossing are the best preventive measures against gum inflammation and disease.

But what happens if you already have periodontal disease? This is where your dentist may recommend a dental deep cleaning which involves scaling and root planning. 

What is Scaling and Root Planning?

Also known as professional cleaning or deep cleaning, scaling and root planning is a procedure in which your dentist will use special instruments to remove plaque and tartar deposits from your teeth and the pockets between your gums and roots. 

In the scaling procedure, your dentist will use an ultrasonic scaler tip that vibrates at a very high frequency to remove adherent plaque and calculus deposits – both above and below the gumline. Afterward, your dentist will smooth the root surfaces – to help your gums to re-attach to the teeth. A smooth root surface also minimizes the risk of adherence of plaque and tartar. 

What Causes Gum Disease?

When you brush your teeth, you are removing the plaque layer from your teeth. This, combined with flossing, and regular visits to your dentist are sufficient to prevent gum disease. However, if you ignore your dental hygiene, or if you do not brush your teeth properly, then the plaque layer becomes thick and eventually hardens and becomes tartar – causing gum inflammation and cavities. 

When is Scaling and Root Planning Necessary?

Both tartar and plaque are ideal breeding spaces for the harmful bacteria, utilizing the sugars and releasing toxins that destroy the attachments between the teeth, gums, and bones. When tartar and plaque build up, they cause gum inflammation leading to periodontal disease.   

If periodontal disease is left untreated, the gums start to detach, leading to gaps or “pockets” forming around the teeth, further promoting food impaction and plaque deposition. In advanced stages, the toxins released from the plaque bacteria start destroying the bone that supports the teeth. As a result, the teeth become mobile and can eventually fall out. 

When periodontal inflammation sets in, your dentist or periodontist will perform scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar, and destroy the bacteria that cause inflammation of the gums and the surrounding tissues. This is also known as a dental deep cleaning.

What to Expect After Scaling and Root Planning?

After a deep cleaning procedure, you may experience some pain or discomfort in your teeth for one or two days.

You might also experience tooth sensitivity for the next week. These conditions are self-healing, and they should go away within a week. If you still experience pain or sensitivity, then you should consult for a periodontist for further advice. 

Sometimes, dentists also prescribe antibacterial mouth rinses or antibiotics to speed up the healing process. Some dentists also place medications inside the gum pockets to neutralize the bacteria and promoting gum re-attachment. 

Although scaling and root planning is an effective procedure for treating periodontal disease, it should be taken as a substitute for regular oral hygiene measures such as brushing flossing. Why should you invest your precious time and money in seeking periodontal treatment, when you can easily prevent it by maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly?