What is Scaling and Root Planing?

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Because you’re taking the time to read this blog post on the NK Family Dental blog, we assume you care about your oral health. If we’re right (as we hope we are), you schedule a dental check-up and cleaning at regular six-month intervals.

Under typical circumstances, the professional cleaning procedure you’re accustomed to will go a long way to keeping your gums healthy. But if you’re experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease, your dentist will likely recommend a procedure called gum scaling and root planing (SRP). While this might seem intimidating and a little scary, it’s also known more commonly (and less alarmingly) as deep cleaning.

Why You May Need a Deep Cleaning

As covered in our blog post — “What Is Periodontal Gum Disease?” — even if you brush your teeth every day, you could still be at risk for developing gum disease, which is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place.

Periodontal disease begins when bacterial plaque and tartar (calculus) — which plaque eventually hardens into — accumulate around and under the gums. Healthy gum tissue fits tightly around each tooth. Plaque and tartar build-up eventually causes inflammation. When this happens, gums pull away from the teeth, forming spaces called pockets. Plaque then gets trapped in these pockets and cannot be removed with regular brushing or a professional teeth cleaning alone. Without a deep cleaning, periodontal disease will advance. Left untreated, it leads to tooth loss and erosion of supporting bone structures. Gum disease has also been linked to other health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

Being aware of the symptoms of periodontal disease — especially in the initial stages — can alert you to schedule an appointment for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Sensitivity
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Teeth appearing longer because of gum recession

While a regular cleaning removes plaque and tartar from above and around the gumline, a deep cleaning — as the name implies — goes under the gumline. Although the American Dental Association (ADA) advises that dentists use SRP as initial treatment for chronic periodontitis, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning as a preventive measure if you haven’t had a regular cleaning in the past 12 months.

Moreover, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics as a precaution prior to scheduling a deep cleaning, based upon your medical history. Tell your dentist if you take prescription medications (including blood thinners), have a weakened immune system, HIV/AIDS, liver disease or other medical condition that the procedure could affect. Never discontinue any prescription medication for any length of time without consulting your doctor.

What Scaling and Root Planing Involves

SRP is a two-step procedure, which Colgate describes as follows.

Step One: Scaling —Dental scaling dives deep into the gumline with manual hand instruments, ultrasonic instruments, or both. If your hygienist or dentist uses an ultrasonic scaling device, sonic vibrations will remove the plaque bacteria and tartar from the tooth surface and underneath the gumline. A manual dental scaler can do the same thing. Or it can supplement the ultrasonic device by removing particles the device can’t break loose.

Step Two: Root Planing Root planing involves an even deeper dive with detailed scaling of the root surface to smooth out rough areas. Smooth root surfaces keep bacteria, plaque and tartar from re-adhering underneath the gumline. Root planing decreases gum tissue inflammation, allowing your gums to heal and reattach themselves more firmly to your teeth.

If needed to prevent infection, your dentist might administer medicine directly into the area undergoing the procedure. After your deep cleaning, you’ll need to schedule a follow-up visit with your dentist.

Depending on the severity of your individual case, scaling and root planing could require more than one visit to complete and may require a local anesthetic. However, the procedure generally causes very little discomfort.

What to Expect After a Deep Cleaning

After a deep cleaning, expect some soreness for a day or two, and teeth sensitivity for up to a week. Your gums also may be swollen, feel tender and bleed. Your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse, and schedule a follow-up visit to see how your gums have healed and measure the depth of your pockets.

Signs that a deep cleaning has successfully treated early-stage or chronic periodontitis are that the bleeding has stopped, and the pockets surrounding your gum tissue are smaller. Further treatment may not be necessary, although your dentist will probably recommend scheduling a standard cleaning every three months, instead of six.

However, if the pockets have become deeper, additional treatment —including periodontal surgery — might be necessary. A scaling and root planing treatment, however, often lessens the degree of surgery required.

Let a deep cleaning be a wake-up call that you need to pay greater attention to your oral hygiene routine — as well as quite possibly your diet and lifestyle habits. Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft brush, floss daily, eat a balanced diet, avoid using tobacco and see your dentist on a regular basis.

The Take-Home Message

Whether you call it scaling and root planing, or deep cleaning, this procedure is an essential treatment for periodontal disease. Getting to the root of periodontal disease — so to speak — can stop it from advancing, and allow your gums to keep your teeth in place for a lifetime of healthy smiles!

At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.

Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs.

Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.

We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago!

We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.

Schedule your visit through ZocDoc, or contact us directly. We look forward to treating you soon!


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