Scaling & Root Planing

Dental tools being used on front teeth

The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling or root planing. These non-surgical procedures aim to remove etiologic agents such as dental plaque and tartar, or calculus, which cause gingival inflammation and disease. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment or a preventative measure. They are commonly performed in cases of gingivitis and moderate to severe periodontal disease.

What do the procedures entail?

Dr. Wright 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 the periodontitis, Dr. Wright may recommend scaling and root planing. In some cases, local anesthesia may be used during the procedure.

  • Scaling:
    When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque that attaches to 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 to remove cementum and surface dentin embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins, and tartar. The tooth’s root is literally smoothed, which promotes healing and helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in the future.

An animated illustration showing the process of scaling An animated depiction of a root planing procedure

Antibiotics or irrigation with antimicrobials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, Dr. Wright may place antibiotic fibers in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planing. This may be done to control infection and to encourage normal healing.

When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult for Dr. Wright 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.

Benefits of Scaling and Root Planing

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. The risk for periodontal disease increases when gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth. As pockets deepen, more bacteria can colonize, eventually causing a chronic inflammatory response by the body to destroy gingival and bone tissue, leading 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. Scaling and planing also remove superficial stains on the teeth, adding an extra bonus to the procedures.

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