Scaling/Root Planing (Call us at 408-719-8600)
If your dentist has informed you that you have periodontal (gum) disease, he or she has probably told you that it is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Without treatment, periodontal disease may result in you losing your teeth. Your dentist probably recommended several courses of action for your condition. In severe cases of periodontal disease, surgery may be necessary. In other cases, a dentist may recommend non-surgical periodontal therapy, a procedure often referred to as scaling and root planing.
What is Scaling and Root Planing?
Scaling and root planing is an alternative dental treatment for periodontal disease that consists of a deep cleaning process. The scaling portion of the treatment involves removing decay, tartar, plaque, and any other bacteria from the tooth. The part of the removal treatment that occurs at or below gum level is called root planing. The greatest benefit of scaling and root planing is the prevention of serious consequences related to gum disease. The early stages of gum disease are characterized by an abnormal amount of space between the teeth called a periodontal pocket. As these pockets increase in depth, there is the risk of tooth loss. With gum disease there is also the potential for bacteria on your teeth to enter your bloodstream and make you sick. This is particularly dangerous for people with heart conditions.
Scaling and root planing are most often performed as one treatment, but may be used individually to prepare a tooth for dental work.
Periodontal disease that does not require surgery is ideal for scaling and root planing. Periodontal disease has various stages. In the beginning there may exist very few periodontal pockets. At this stage, deep cleaning the gum and teeth with a scaling and root planing treatment can lessen the potential for serious damage. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends scaling and root planing when the pockets are greater than three millimeters, a sign that bacteria has reached the gums. Pockets deeper than six or seven millimeters probably require surgery.
To perform scaling and root planing, the dentist may or may not begin treatment by administering local anesthesia to the area of the mouth being treated. The dentist will then use a variety of mechanical and hand instruments to perform the treatment. The scaling portion of the treatment is performed with the more powerful mechanical instruments. The dentist will use hand instruments to perform root planing since the bacteria and other debris at the gum line are usually not as visible. The dentist will usually judge the amount of root planing required by feeling for rough surfaces.
Scaling and root planing may be completed in one or more sessions, depending on the level of damage to the teeth. The dentist will recommend a protocol for handling soreness, pain, and bleeding that you may experience after the procedure.
Scaling and root planing involve a significant amount of work on the teeth and gums. In addition to mild bleeding, soreness, and pain, you may also notice that your teeth and/or gums are unusually sensitive to beverages with extreme temperatures. You should contact your dentist if the discomfort does not go away with the use of an over-the-counter analgesic (pain medicine). You should also contact your dentist if you experience bleeding for longer than a week.