Scaling & Root Planing

The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling or root planing. The objective of these non-surgical procedures is to remove etiologic agents such as dental plaque and tartar, or calculus, which cause gingival inflammation and disease. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or a preventative measure. They are commonly preformed on cases of gingivitis and moderate to severe periodontal disease.

What do the procedures entail?

Dr. Roberts or Dr. Goodner will only recommend scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of the mouth, which may include taking x-rays and a clinical exam. Depending on the condition of the gums, the amount of tartar present, the depth of the pockets, and the progression of periodontitis, Dr. Roberts or Dr. Goodner may recommend a type of deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. Local anesthesia may be used during the procedure.

  • Scaling:
    When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque that attaches to the tooth surfaces is removed. The process especially targets the area below the gum line, along the root. Scaling is performed with a special dental tool called an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool usually includes an irrigation process that can be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums to help reduce oral bacteria.
  • Root Planing:
    Root planing is performed in order to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed, which promotes healing, and also helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in the future.

Antibiotics or irrigation with antimicrobials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, Dr. Roberts or Dr. Goodner may place an antibiotic in a periodontal pocket after scaling and planing. This may be done to control infection or to encourage healing.

When very deep pockets are present between teeth and gums that make thorough hygiene difficult or impossible, Dr. Roberts or Dr. Goodner may recommend a surgical procedure to restore periodontal health and improve the prognosis of the teeth.

Benefits of Treatment

If treatment is successful, scaling and root planing may have many benefits. One is that it can help prevent disease. Research has proven that bacteria from periodontal infections can travel through the blood stream and affect other areas of the body, potentially contributing to heart and respiratory diseases. Periodontal treatment is designed to remove the bacteria that can lead to these conditions.

Another benefit of treatment is protecting teeth against tooth loss. When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, the risk for periodontal disease increases. As pockets deepen, more bacteria are able to colonize, eventually causing a chronic inflammatory response by the body that destroys bone and gum tissue. This disease process eventually leads to tooth loss.

Finally, scaling and root planing may make the mouth more aesthetically pleasing, and can often reduce bad breath caused from food particles and bacteria in the oral cavity. Superficial stains on the teeth will be removed during scaling and root planing, adding an extra benefit to the procedure.