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Medically Reviewed by Lisa A. Turner, DDS, MSD

If you are showing signs of periodontal disease and gum recession, your dentist may suggest a scaling and root planing session. Perhaps the prospect sounds a bit daunting, but according to reputable research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the procedure can often benefit patients with periodontal disease by helping to prevent the serious side effects of loosening teeth and resulting tooth loss, bone and tissue deterioration. Understanding any procedure is the first step in quelling uncertainty. Dr. Lisa Turner of Venice Periodontics and Implant Dentistry in Venice, Florida, discusses the risks of chronic periodontal disease and the potential benefits of scaling and root planing. 

Periodontal disease affects a significant percentage of the population

The sticky film of bacteria called plaque forms on our teeth constantly. If teeth are not cleaned well, the bacteria in plaque can cause gums to become inflamed. When that happens, gums pull away from teeth and form spaces called pockets. When plaque is trapped within these pockets, it cannot be removed by regular brushing. This condition, untreated, results in serious gum disease, which in many cases leads to tooth and bone loss.  

According to a Healthline post, over half of the US adult population above the age of 30 suffers from some degree of periodontal disease. Contributing factors to the development of this condition are poor dental hygiene, smoking, aging, hormonal changes, poor nutrition, family history, and other additional medical conditions.  

When are scaling and root planing done?

If the condition is caught in the early stages, before it has caused damage to the structures below the gum line, a regular professional tooth and gum cleaning should be sufficient to prevent complications. If, however, the pockets between your teeth and gums are too deep, you may already be suffering from other symptoms of the condition, which include shifting teeth, bite changes, inflamed (red, tender or bleeding) gums, or bad breath, scaling and root planing may be necessary. 

What is the purpose of scaling and root planing?

This 2-part treatment is considered the best approach to periodontal disease. A review of journal articles in 2015 concluded that the process reduced the pocket gap between teeth and gums by an average of .5 millimeters. Reducing the pockets between teeth and gums via scaling and tooth planing reduces the risk of the serious effects of tooth, bone and tissue loss. For more information about the process, see this American Dental Association post, in addition to the description below. 

Scaling removes plaque below the gumline

Scaling is the process of removing all the plaque and hardened plaque called calculus (also known as tartar) from both above and below the gum line. The material is removed from the entire depth of the pockets between the teeth. 

Root planing is the finishing touch 

Root planing is the process of smoothing out the roots of the teeth and removing any infected tooth material. This helps the gums reattach to the teeth, reducing the width of the pockets.

What to expect during and following tooth scaling and root planing

Two appointments may be necessary to complete the procedure, one for each side of the mouth. A local anesthetic may be necessary. Mild pain may occur for about a day, and gums may be sensitive for about a week.

Your dentist may prescribe a pill or mouth rinse to control pain, speed healing, prevent infection. Medication may be inserted directly into the pockets following cleaning. A follow-up visit will likely be scheduled to assess healing and measure the depths of the pockets.   

How can the procedure help with periodontal disease and gum recession?

Removing plaque, tartar and damaged tooth material helps teeth and gums to heal. The process of tooth scaling and root planing can be very supportive in preventing long-term damage to teeth and bones and gum discomfort, and other symptoms of periodontal disease. 

Good home dental care (brushing and flossing two or more times per day, healthy eating habits, avoidance of tobacco products), regular professional cleaning and, when necessary, tooth scaling and planing can greatly improve dental health and minimize the effects of periodontal disease.  

Venice Periodontics and Implant Dentistry offers comprehensive scaling and root planing procedures that can help save your natural tooth root and work towards better oral health. If you’re in need of periodontal care in the Venice, Florida area, contact us today for a consultation online or by phone at 941-497-5591! We are happy to help!