Scaling and Root Planing for Gum Disease


Most people brush and floss their teeth regularly at home, but how efficiently are you actually cleaning them? Our teeth and mouths have many crevices and it can be difficult to reach these and all of the faces of our teeth with a toothbrush. Unfortunately, it’s often in these hard to reach areas that decay eventually begins to develop. Dental decay occurs when bacteria found in our mouths comes into contact with sugars in our food and drink, causing the formation of a sticky, clear film called plaque. Plaque needs to be removed as quickly as possible in order to prevent it causing irritation and decay that will ultimately affect our oral health. Plaque that isn’t effectively removed hardens and turns into tartar, which can’t be dealt with by a toothbrush and instead requires professional tools. Nevertheless, both plaque and tartar have the ability to cause the onset of gum disease – an inflammatory condition that is triggered by bacteria in plaque causing infection of the gum tissues. 


Gum disease is a progressive condition and will only get worse without treatment. As it advances, patients can expect to experience bleeding gums, bad breath, receding gums, severe dental pain, and eventually tooth loss. Some research has also shown that patients with advanced gum disease are more likely to develop serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease. If your dentist identifies that you are suffering from gum disease, you may be referred for a treatment called scaling and root planing.


What is Scaling and Root Planing?


Tooth scaling and root planing is the term given to a non-surgical dental procedure designed specifically for patients who have symptoms or visible signs of periodontal disease. In order to deal with the periodontal disease and remove all traces of the bacteria, scaling and root planing is required and is one of the only treatment options that can slow or halt the progression of gum disease. 


Tooth Scaling and Periodontal Pockets


Tooth scaling involves removing all of the plaque on your teeth and cleaning the periodontal pockets at the base of your teeth. These are tiny gaps between the teeth and gums, caused by the gum pulling away from the tooth as a result of periodontal disease. In mild cases of periodontal disease, these pockets may only be 1mm or so deep. However, as tartar builds up and the disease progresses, the periodontal pockets become deeper, eventually reaching depths of 4mm of more. 


The main issue with deeper periodontal pockets is that they are impossible to clean with just a toothbrush, which can’t get inside them to remove the bacteria. Fortunately, the specific tools required for tooth scaling can access the insides of the pockets and clear them of these bacteria and any other debris that could be advancing your condition.  


Root Planing


Root planing is carried out after tooth scaling. The process involves the rough areas on the surface of the tooth root being smoothed out. Doing this will help prevent bacteria, plaque, and tartar from reforming on the surface of the root, and will make it easier for your gum to reattach to your affected teeth, making them more secure and preventing the formation of more periodontal pockets.


Both tooth scaling and root planing are invasive procedures, and so you can expect to experience some soreness in the days after your treatment. Swelling, redness, and some bleeding when you brush your teeth are all normal. You may also experience tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking anything particularly hot, cold, or sweet. However, these side effects will only last a few days, and you can take over the counter medication to help alleviate any discomfort that you are experiencing. If you have any concerns while healing, your dentist will be happy to reassure you. 


Many patients who suffer from moderate to advanced periodontal disease may find that they need multiple scaling and root planing appointments during their lifetime as these will help prevent the disease from progressing. However, by taking positive action to prevent periodontal disease from developing at all, you can avoid scaling and root planing treatments in the future.




If you would like more information about scaling and root planing for gum disease, or to schedule an appointment, contact our dental office in Irvine, CA today.  


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