What is Scaling and Root Planing, and What is it Used For?

Not many people have heard of scaling and root planing, yet it’s an important dental procedure. So what is it and what is it used for? Specialty Dental Care in Omaha Specialty Dental offers some answers.

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing is a two-stage process where the root surface below the gumline is subject to a deep cleaning to remove inflammatory and bacterial deposits that adhere to the root and to smooth (plane) off the root surface to close holes left in the root due to the loss of ligament that attached the bone and gum to the tooth. This allows the skin lining to adhere to the treated root surface in order to treat gum disease, which is caused by plaque. This sticky accumulation of saliva and bacteria is constantly forming on a person’s teeth. Plaque can be easily controlled and removed through regular brushing and flossing. However, improper brushing and not flossing your teeth could lead to excess plaque accumulation, which in turn could lead to the growth of the special kinds of bacteria that can cause gum disease- gingivitis or periodontitis.

When gingivitis starts, the gums become inflamed, tender, and may bleed when brushed or professionally cleaned. In mouths with thin gum, this may lead to recession as gums pull away from the teeth. If the plaque initiated inflammation is deeper and nearer to the bone, white blood cells react to dissolve the waste products from the bacteria and wall off the bone. This creates spaces called pockets in which plaque builds up even faster as it is harder to clean, as it can’t easily be removed by brushing, flossing, or a dental cleaning. When these soft deposits harden and become calculus (tartar), scaling and root planing becomes necessary in order to reverse the progress of the gum disease and prevent the ensuing loss of tooth and bone.

What is Scaling and Planing Used For?

Scaling and root planing is an designed therapeutic intervention that is more complex than routine (“twice a year”) professional dental cleaning. The first step is scaling, which is when the dentist removes all of the plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) below and above the gumline. The scaling process even goes into the aforementioned pockets and clears them of plaque/tartar too. Once those exceptionally thorough cleaning is completed, the second step, planning, begins. This is the act of smoothing and closing gaps in the tooth roots so that the gums are better able to adhere to the root surface of the teeth.

Depending on the length and intensity of the scaling and planing process, the dentist might determine that a local anesthetic is necessary for the comfortable cleaning of the gums and roots.

What to Expect During and After the Procedure

Although it sounds intense, there is little to no discomfort associated with scaling and planing, especially when a local anesthetic is used. In order for the procedure to be effective, it’s vitally important that the patient practice good dental care post-procedure. Often prescription rinses and or antibiotics are required to facilitate resolution of the periodontal lesions. If the patient keeps the areas clean, the gums will heal, becoming pink and firm again, signaling the successful halting of gum disease. Patients having undergone scaling and planing may experience sensitivity in the teeth for up to a week after the procedure. Often varnished with fluoride are used to prevent this cold sensitivity,

As with any periodontal procedure conducted by our dental professionals at Omaha Specialty Dental Care, it’s highly recommended that the patient stop using tobacco, whether smoked or chewed. Tobacco’s nicotine inhibits blood vessel growth into the healing site, retarding the delivery of healing agents from our immune system. In addition many dangerous carcinogens may hamper the healing process and make it harder for the body to fight infection.

If you have questions about gingivitis, scaling and planing, or any other dental procedure, don’t hesitate to call Specialty Dental Care in Omaha.