Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing (or non-surgical periodontal therapy, conventional periodontal therapy, or deep cleaning) is one of the most common and most effective treatments for early-stage periodontal disease, or gum disease. During the process, the periodontist will thoroughly clean the patient’s teeth to the roots, as well as the surrounding gums.

What Is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling is the process of removing the plaque and calculus, or tartar, from the surfaces of the patient’s teeth. The periodontist has special tools that he or she will use to gently and safely scrape the surface of teeth to remove plaque and tartar. This scraping can extend underneath the gum line, down to the root of the teeth, to clean hard-to-reach areas.

What is Plaque and Tartar

Plaque is a sticky, bacteria-filled film that forms on our teeth. It develops from everyday encounters such as food and the natural and introduced bacteria in our mouths. When present for extended periods of time, the plaque hardens to form tartar. At this point, it is significantly harder to remove from the teeth, and patients with tartar buildup are more likely to develop gum disease.

Root Planing

Root planing is the process of smoothing the surfaces of the teeth’s roots. This is performed because plaque and tartar are more likely to attach to rough surfaces. Therefore, smoothing the surfaces of the root will help to ensure that plaque and tartar do not continue to build in the patient’s mouth. By preventing additional plaque and tartar buildup, the patient’s gum disease has a better opportunity to heal faster. Additionally, root planing will allow the gum tissue to safely heal and reattach to the teeth.

Scaling and Root Planing Uses

Scaling and root planing is primarily used for patients with early-stage gum disease, such as gingivitis. For some patients, this may be the only treatment needed to resolve their gum disease. Those who have more severe cases, such as periodontitis, may receive scaling and root planing as the first step before periodontal surgery.

Scaling and Planing Tools

The periodontist will typically use several tools for scaling and root planing, including hand instruments and ultrasonic scalers, depending on type and surfaces of teeth. These ultrasonic instruments may be air-powered or electric. Additionally, the periodontist may recommend antibiotics or anti-microbial irrigation, such as mouth rinses or chemical agents. These will help to control bacteria growth to reduce toxins and encourage healing.