Scaling and Root Planing

Why is scaling and root planing necessary?

In order to understand what scaling and root planing is, first you have to understand the structures that support your teeth.

In a healthy mouth, gums and the bone beneath them serve the purpose of supporting our teeth. However, just like teeth, gums and bone are susceptible to disease if we don’t routinely care for them.

The good news is that caring for our gums and bones is easy! Simply brushing and flossing with the appropriate technique not only helps our teeth but also keeps our gums clean. However, if patients neglect brushing or flossing, plaque and calculus, popularly known as tartar, will accumulate along the gum line. This collection of food particles and bacteria will cause inflammation in the gums.

Inflamed gums have an angry, red appearance instead of a healthy pink color and bleed when you floss or a dentist probes. If the inflammation is not resolved, it can lead to the destruction of the bone under the gums. This inflammation with destruction of the bone is known as periodontitis.

Eventually, so much of the bone is lost that the teeth become loose or even fall out. In fact, the most common reason why patients lose teeth isn’t from getting very big cavities, but instead from severe periodontitis.  

Our goal as dentists and dental hygienists is to stop this problem before it gets that far.

Most patients are able to perform the daily oral hygiene necessary for removing plaque, and for these patients, simple cleanings every six months are appropriate. But other patients who have been neglecting their brushing or flossing need more involved treatment in order to eliminate disease and restore oral health. We do this through scaling and root planing.

What is scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing is a thorough cleaning of a patient’s teeth and gums that involves removing plaque and calculus deposits from underneath the gums and alongside the teeth. Usually, this procedure is completed with the use of a local anesthetic, which ensures a comfortable experience for the patient and allows the practitioner to have access to the mouth without missing a spot.

Plaque and calculus are removed with manual hand instruments as well as ultrasonic scalers, and the surfaces of the roots of the teeth are cleaned. In some cases, antimicrobial agents and locally placed antibiotics are used to destroy bacteria that can’t be physically removed with dental instruments or with irrigating and rinsing.

Scaling and root planing is the first phase in getting a patient with periodontitis back to stable oral health. We follow up with our patients to make sure that they understand and execute our oral hygiene instructions completely.  

In addition to a follow-up appointment, patients with periodontitis come back more frequently than average patients, usually every 3 to 4 months. These additional cleaning visits, or recalls, are extremely important. It is much easier to prevent periodontitis and additional bone loss by regularly removing superficial plaque than it is to complete another round of scaling and root planing, which is what would be necessary if too much time goes by between appointments.

Are you due for a cleaning?

Has it been long time since you’ve had a cleaning? Do your gums bleed or ache? These may be signs that you need scaling and root planing.  

We want to help restore your dental health. Remember, unchecked gum disease will progress, and can ultimately result in tooth loss. So call us for an evaluation today at (301) 963-0800.