Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is one of the most effective, non-surgical ways to treat gum disease before it becomes severe. Scaling and root planing is a meticulous cleaning of the root surfaces below the gum line to remove plaque, toxins and tartar from the root surfaces of the teeth. This procedure is more intensive than a routine general dental cleaning, which traditionally occurs every six months.

Scaling is basically the process of removing dental tartar from the surfaces of the teeth. Root planing is the process of smoothing the root surfaces and removing any infected tooth structure. If you have gum disease, the pockets around the teeth will have deepened, thereby allowing tartar deposits to form under the gum line. A careful cleaning of the root surfaces to remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from deep periodontal pockets and smoothing the tooth root to remove bacterial toxins will help ensure that your gum disease is controlled.

For your comfort, Dr. Crum or her dental hygienist may numb the area prior to treatment.  Research has consistently shown that scaling and root planing reduces gingival inflammation and probing depths, and shifts the bacterial composition living in these pockets from one that is associated with disease toward one associated with health.  Therefore, scaling and root planing is usually the first mode of treatment that we recommend for most periodontal patients.

In some cases systemic antibiotics (antibiotic pills) or locally-administered antibiotics (Arestin antibiotic powder placed into the periodontal pockets) are prescribed in conjunction with scaling and root planing.  Each time you take a systemic antibiotic you increase your chance of developing drug resistant bacteria.  That is why Dr. Crum prefers to use the locally delivered antibiotic whenever possible.  We prescribe systemic antibiotics only when necessary.

Helpful Hints to Keep in Mind

  • Scaling and root planing does not usually cause much discomfort, but you may experience some soreness afterwards, since deeper regions under the gums have been cleaned.
  • Your teeth themselves may become a bit more sensitive to temperature, and bleeding might occur for a little while after your procedure.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, work very well to alleviate discomfort, as do ice packs applied to the outside of the face around the treated area.
  • Brushing and flossing will have to be done more gently for a couple of days to avoid aggravating any bruised or tender gum areas. We'll show you the best methods for keeping your teeth clean during this time.

Scaling and root planing is a conservative procedure that can work very well to stop gum disease. If you maintain good dental care after the procedure, the progression of your gum disease should stop, and your gums will heal and become firm and pink again.  However, it is important to remember that some patients may not respond optimally to scaling and root planing, with or without antibiotics.  These patients often respond favorably to advanced periodontal procedures that may include measures aimed at regenerating the natural anatomy that was lost to disease.