What is Scaling and Root Planing?
Scaling and root planing or a “deep cleaning” is a procedure where the teeth and roots are cleaned below the gum line. Oftentimes, plaque and calculus accumulates below the gums and causes periodontal or gum disease. If left untreated, the plaque and calculus cause inflammation in the gums and leads to bone loss which can eventually lead to tooth loss. Scaling and root planing allows cleaning of the roots of the teeth so your gums can re-attach to the teeth.
Why do I Need Scaling and Root Planing?
Periodontal disease and gingivitis are chronic infections that develop over time. Harmful bacteria can grow below the gums and cause destruction within the bone and gums around teeth.
With the build-up plaque and minimal calculus, the gums start to get inflamed and start to bleed while brushing. The initial stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. However, if gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into the destructive periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes bone loss which can lead to loose teeth and eventually tooth loss. The goal of scaling and root planing is to decrease the inflammation in the gums, remove calculus and tartar around the teeth, and stop the progression of bone loss.
Regular dental cleanings are often not enough to clean teeth with gingivitis and periodontal disease. Successful deep cleaning of these areas is accomplished through non-surgical periodontal treatment, including scaling and root planing. This procedure includes cleaning the root surfaces below the gums in order to remove plaque and calculus build-up from deep periodontal pockets to remove harmful bacteria to leave a smooth, clean surface that promotes healthy gums. The gum disease procedure is completed by numbing the gums and using an ultrasonic machine and hand instruments to reach the depths of gum pockets. Ultrasonic dental instruments are used to effectively clean your teeth and the root surfaces below the gums. The ultrasonic instrument vibrates quickly to knock off the calculus and tartar from the teeth without damaging the teeth. Water also comes out of the instrument to rinse away the debris from the teeth. Oftentimes, an antibacterial solution is added to the water source for the instrument to provide localized medicaments deep below the gums to remove the harmful bacteria deep in the gum pockets.
Sometimes systemic or localized antibiotics are indicated to help control the infection. This will be determined by you periodontist at PerioLife. The teeth can become sensitive afterwards as the teeth are now more exposed once all of the calculus and tartar is removed. We have developed special treatments to treat the sensitivity so that you are comfortable very soon after your treatment. You should avoid eating hard or sticky foods for the first couple of days after treatment.
A re-evaluation is completed 4-6 weeks after treatment to assess the reattachment of the gums. The amount of reattachment after treatment greatly depends on your oral care routine at home. Using an electric toothbrush to brush twice a day and flossing daily can help reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth.
Frequently Asked Questions
During a dental deep cleaning or scaling and root planing, your gums will be cleaned both above and underneath the gum tissue. This process can be sensitive thus local anesthetic is used to numb your gums first. At PerioLife, we offer nitrous oxide of laughing gas and sedation to our patients that may have any anxiety about the procedure. After the scaling and root planing, teeth can be sensitive especially to cold liquids. Rinsing with salt water or using sensitivity toothpastes can help reduce the cold sensitivity.
It depends on how many teeth need to be scaled and root planed. It typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours for the full mouth to be properly cleaned.
Your dentist, dental hygienist, or periodontist will evaluate your gums to determine if you have periodontal disease or gingivitis. Per recent studies, approximately half of the US population has gum disease thus it is a very common procedure.
Your mouth will be numb for about 1.5 hours after the procedure. Thus, we recommend waiting about 2 hours before eating anything after the scaling and root planing. Taking over the counter ibuprofen or tylenol will typically be enough to take care of any discomfort after the procedure. Over the 6 weeks after the deep cleaning, your gums will be healing and re-attaching to your teeth internally. Thus it is very important to keep your teeth clean by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. The cleaner you keep your mouth afterwards, the better your gums will heal and respond to the treatment.
If you have any questions about scaling and root planing, please contact your PerioLife periodontists in Dallas, Irving, Fort Worth or Keller offices.