Gum Disease TreatmentIn many instances of gum disease, scaling and root planing – a routine dental procedure to remove accumulations of plaque and tartar – can stop the problem in its tracks.

The key benefit of scaling and root planing is that it eliminates the harmful bacteria in plaque and tartar that attack both gums and teeth, and this helps to promote long-term oral health.

Scaling removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line. Planing smoothes the tooth root and helps gum tissue to reattach to the tooth.

Scaling and root planing (SRP) go deeper than normal teeth cleanings at the dentist but are still non-surgical and relatively comfortable procedures. In halting the progress of gum disease (periodontitis), scaling and root planing can avoid the need for invasive periodontal surgery.

Root planing and scaling are highly effective in treating mild to moderate cases of periodontal disease because it cleans your teeth down to the roots beneath the gum line. This deep cleaning addresses the problem of periodontal pockets – gaps between the teeth and gums – that provide a home for bacteria, plaque, and tartar.

Besides restoring your gums and teeth to good health, a further benefit of scaling and root planing is a financial one – it can avoid the need for more expensive dental work by preventing major problems such as advanced periodontitis and tooth decay or tooth loss.

Scaling and root planing can also help to maintain your overall wellbeing by preventing infection from spreading from your mouth to other areas of your body. As well as protecting tooth roots, your gums stop dangerous bacteria from getting into your bloodstream.

What Does Scaling and Root Planing Involve?

Root planing and scaling is a relatively simple procedure but still requires experience and finesse on the part of your dental hygienist or dentist.

Once the gums have been numbed, your dentist or dental hygienist will use special instruments to gently remove bacterial plaque and tartar and other debris both at and below the gum line. An ultrasonic tool can be used to get rid of larger fragments.

An irrigation system washes away the debris and a suction instrument removes the water and excess saliva. If large pockets have developed, antibiotic material may be applied to prevent infection as the gaps close and the gums heal. This material is removed after about a week. Scaling and root planing may take more than one visit to complete.

Root planing and scaling will give you:

  • A cleaner mouth – free from plaque and tartar on and in your gums and on your teeth.
  • Improved overall oral health.
  • Less risk of cavities and tooth loss.

Other benefits of root planing and scaling include:

  • Easing the problem of bleeding gums and gum recession.
  • Preventing severe gum disease.
  • Reducing bad breath and tooth staining.

What Happens After Scaling and Root Planing?

After scaling and root planing1, you may have a sore mouth for a couple of days and your teeth may be sensitive to hot and cold food and drinks for up to a week. Your gums may also feel tender and there may be some bleeding.

Your dentist may prescribe medication or a special mouthwash to manage pain and prevent infection. They will schedule another appointment to assess how your gums are healing and measure the depth of periodontal pockets. If they have become deeper, more treatment may be needed.

Once your mouth is healthy again, you’ll probably need follow-up professional cleanings every three months or so.

Why Might I Need Scaling and Root Planing?

Periodontal disease begins as gingivitis – inflammation of the gums. Without treatment, it can progress to full-blown, destructive periodontal disease. Millions of adults in the U.S. have mild, moderate or severe gum disease.

There are different types of periodontal disease but most are a result of biofilms of plaque sticking to the teeth around the gum line. If plaque is not removed, it can harden into calculus (tartar), which attaches to tooth enamel and burrows beneath your gum line. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional.

The bacteria in plaque and tartar can infect your gums and eventually pry your gum tissue away from your teeth, causing periodontal pockets. Once bacterial plaque penetrates into these spaces, it becomes pathogenic (disease-causing), and further infection and inflammation can lead to abscesses and loss of teeth and bone.

If gum disease is diagnosed early and hasn’t had time to damage the structures beneath the gum line, a routine professional cleaning should be enough to fix the problem. If deep pockets have developed between your teeth and gums, scaling and root planing is likely to be necessary.

Studies suggest a success rate of 85 percent in periodontal treatment when reinforced with a sound routine of oral hygiene at home. If you think you may have a gum problem, a periodontal specialist will be able to explain the benefits of scaling and root planing.

Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

The American Dental Association2 (ADA) says scaling and root planing is an effective treatment for patients with chronic periodontal disease, which affects nearly half the population of the U.S. aged over 30.

The ADA stresses that good oral healthcare at home is vital to keep gum disease from recurring or becoming more serious. The organization recommends: • Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. • Cleaning between your teeth by flossing daily. • Maintaining a balanced diet. • Avoiding tobacco use. • Seeing your dentist regularly for check-ups.

The ADA says regular dental exams are essential to detect early signs of gum disease, which may have no obvious symptoms.

Even if you don’t have gum disease, it’s advisable to visit a dental hygienist regularly for removal of plaque, tartar, and stains you can’t reach with your toothbrush or by flossing.

The American Academy of Periodontology3 (AAP) says all adults should get a comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) every 12 months.