Scaling and root planing is a treatment usually performed during the early stages of periodontal disease to help remove plaque and tartar that has built up beneath the gum line. This procedure is considered a deep cleaning, and may be performed to prevent the disease from progressing to a more advanced stage, or to improve the quality of a patient's tissue before surgery.
The Scaling and Root Planing Procedure
During the scaling part of the procedure, an instrument called a scaler is used to scrape away any plaque or tartar that has built up beneath the gums. Plaque often develops in pockets that form between the teeth and gums. As the disease progresses, these pockets grow, which may cause teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.
After the scaler has removed the plaque and tartar, the treated area is rough and uneven. Root planing smooths the root of the tooth so that the gums can heal and reattach to the tooth properly. Anesthesia or sedation may be used during this procedure. Antibiotics or irrigation with antimicrobials may be prescribed to help prevent bacteria from growing in the mouth.
There is little-or-no pain associated with this procedure, and patients can resume their regular activities immediately afterward. Medication may be prescribed to address any post-treatment discomfort. After the scaling and root planing procedure, patients should practice proper oral hygiene in order to prevent pockets from reforming.
Patients with significant plaque and tartar buildup and those with gum disease benefit the most from this procedure. Additional candidates for scaling and root planing may be those who have deep gum pockets, signs of early or emerging gum disease, periodontitis, and visible gum recession.
Certain conditions are contraindications to scaling and root planing, namely, any underlying blood disorders or conditions that affect blood clotting.
It is important to fully disclose your medical history to your dentist during a consultation. By understanding your health, we can make the safest suggestions for your well-being. No condition will stop you from being able to take care of your oral health, but there may be cases where we have to take preventative measures before typical procedures, such as cleanings and scaling and root planing.
How To Prepare for Scaling and Root Planing
Brush your teeth and disinfect your mouth with an ADA-approved mouthwash prior to your appointment. Afterward, avoid eating or drinking anything besides water until your treatment is complete.
If you need to complete antibiotics before having the procedure performed, please let us know so we can arrange your appointment accordingly.
Feel free to ask us any questions you have prior to your appointment! We would be happy to help you learn more about the procedure and feel comfortable and confident when you visit us for your deep cleaning.
How Often Should I Have Scaling and Root Planing Each Year?
Regular dental cleanings are recommended at least twice per year. The goal is to prevent the need for deep cleaning each year, so you can enjoy greater oral health with lower risks and complications.
Depending on your needs and oral health, we may recommend annual scaling and root planing, bi-annual treatment, or treatment every few years. Every patient’s treatment plan is customized to suit their unique circumstances.
Patients with dry mouth, who are more prone to tooth decay, must be particularly vigilant about maintaining good oral hygiene. Anyone who has a higher propensity for tooth decay, such as those with enamel erosion, should also take additional measures to protect their teeth and gums.
Is Scaling and Root Planing Worth It?
Absolutely. Patients with gum disease, significant plaque buildup, chronic bad breath, and a higher risk of oral health disease should always receive scaling and root planing at their dentist’s recommendation. Having plaque and bacteria removed from your teeth (scaling) and below the gum line (root planing) helps improve your oral health, reduce the risk of disease and infection, and preserve your smile.
What To Avoid After Deep Dental Cleaning
After your deep cleaning, you should avoid eating anything for at least 30 minutes and as long as your mouth is numb. This prevents accidentally biting your lips or tongue and gives your teeth and gums time to recover from treatment.
You should also avoid eating irritating foods, which can include hard, chewy, sticky, crunchy, and extremely hot or cold dishes. Avoid acidic beverages and consuming a lot of sugar, as bacteria thrive off it and lead to new infections.
Another important measure to avoid after scaling and root planing is touching your teeth and gums. The gum tissue is particularly sensitive in the days following treatment, and touching them or poking them with a toothbrush or flosser could impact healthy blood clotting.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Scaling and Root Planing?
Gum sensitivity is uncommon after treatment, though inflammation can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. The greatest potential drawback is the risk of infection due to bacteria entering the bloodstream — this is why your dentist may suggest an antiseptic mouthwash or taking antibiotics after treatment. Research has shown that starting antibiotics on the day scaling and root planing is completed can be an effective preventative measure against blood infection (bacteremia).
How Effective Is Scaling and Root Planing?
Generally, the treatment is highly effective at reducing plaque, tartar, and bacteria from the mouth while improving a patient’s oral health prognosis. At the same time, it is important to consider individual factors that can affect the outcome of treatment, such as:
- The severity of tooth decay or gum disease a patient has at the time of deep cleaning
- Treatments a patient is receiving or plans to receive to address their oral health needs after their deep cleaning
- The patient’s adherence to good oral hygiene practices at home
- The depth of the patient’s periodontal pockets
Depending on your individual needs, we will recommend a dental cleaning and exam schedule to optimize your oral health. If you have any questions, we always encourage you to reach out and speak with us. We are proud to be your partner in oral health and wellness.