Scaling and Root Planing

The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling or root planing. This is a thorough, deep cleaning done with local anesthetics. It includes scaling to remove plaque and tartar deposits beneath the gum line. It is commonly performed on cases of gingivitis and moderate-to-severe periodontal disease.

What Does Scaling and Root Planing Entail?

Dr. Coleman, Dr. Bick or Dr. Smith IV will only perform scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of the mouth, which may include taking x-rays and visually examining the mouth. Depending on the condition of the gums, the amount of tartar present, the depth of the pockets, and the progression of periodontitis, Drs. Coleman, Bick or Smith IV may recommend scaling and root planing.

  • Scaling:
    When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque that attaches to the tooth surfaces are removed. The process especially targets the area below the gum line, along the root. Scaling is performed with a special dental tool called an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool usually includes an irrigation process that can be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums to help reduce oral bacteria.
  • Root Planing:
    Root planing is performed in order to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins, and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed, which promotes healing, and also helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in the future.
 Scaling and Root Planing animated image
 Scaling and Root Planing animated image

As an adjunct to scaling and root planing, adjunctive antibiotics may be selectively recommended to help kill the bacteria that cause periodontitis. As part of your ongoing periodontal maintenance, Drs. Coleman, Bick or Smith IV may place an antibiotic gel in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planing. This may be done to help control the infection and to reduce the pocket depth.

When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult for Drs. Coleman, Bick or Smith IV to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. Consequently, surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health.

 Scaling and Root Planing front teeth
 Scaling and Root Planing upper teeth

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Benefits of Scaling & Root Planing Treatment

If treatment is successful, scaling and planing may have many periodontal benefits. One is that it can help prevent disease. Research has proven that bacteria from periodontal infections can travel through the bloodstream and affect other areas of the body, sometimes causing heart and respiratory diseases. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria that cause these conditions.

Another benefit of treatment is protecting teeth against tooth loss. When gum pockets exceed 3mm in-depth, the risk for periodontal disease increases. As pockets deepen, more bacteria are able to colonize, eventually causing a chronic inflammatory response by the body to destroy gingival and bone tissue. This leads to tooth loss.

Finally, scaling and root planing may make the mouth more aesthetically pleasing, and should reduce bad breath caused by food particles and bacteria in the oral cavity. Superficial stains on the teeth will be removed during scaling and planing, adding an extra bonus to the procedures.