DENTAL SCALING AND ROOT PLANING EXPLAINED
- What Is Dental Scaling?
- Is Dental Scaling Necessary?
- Types of Dental Scaling Tools
- Does Dental Scaling Hurt?
- Dental Scaling Procedure Watchouts
What Is Dental Scaling?
If you have a stubborn case of gum disease, your dentist may recommend a dental procedure called dental scaling to keep it from getting worse. Dental scaling is the most common non-surgical way to treat gum disease, which is also known as periodontitis. This will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and help your gums regain health. But if you have severe periodontal disease and your condition may require gum surgery, your dentist and periodontist may recommend a scaling and root planing before the surgery, as well as a thorough teeth-cleaning prior to the procedure.
Is Dental Scaling Necessary?
The sticky, bacteria-filled plaque that causes gum disease tends to accumulate in the area along and just below the gum line. If you have gums that are slightly receded from your teeth, you may be at increased risk for gum disease and your dentist may recommend scaling. Scaling is non-surgical, but it is a different type of procedure from a standard dental cleaning because it involves cleaning the areas of the tooth below the gum line.
Types of Dental Scaling Tools
There are two types of scaling instruments and some dentists or dental hygienists may use both:
- Scaling with hand-held instruments. Your dentist or periodontist will use a dental scaler and curette to manually remove (scale) the plaque from the teeth. Because the dentist or dental hygienist can't see the plaque, they rely on touch to identify areas of tartar buildup and rough spots.
- Scaling with ultrasonic instruments. Ultrasonic scaling instruments clean plaque from the teeth with a vibrating metal tip that chips off the tartar and a water spray to wash it away and keep the tip cool.
Does Dental Scaling Hurt?
During the teeth scaling process, your dentist or dental hygienist will numb the gums and tooth roots with a local anesthesia, but teeth scaling and root planing cause very little discomfort. Your dentist or dental hygienist will use specialized tools to remove the hardened deposits of plaque buildup (tartar) from the teeth both above and below the gum line. Root planing involves smoothing rough spots on the roots of the teeth that can promote gum disease by trapping and holding bacteria.
The whole procedure may be done in a single visit, although generally a quadrant (1/4th of the mouth) or half of the mouth is recommended per appointment. After a scaling and planing, you can expect that your gums will be numb from the anesthesia and then possibly a little tender. But if you maintain a consistent oral health routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing, your gums should quickly regain a firm, healthy, pink appearance.
Dental Scaling Procedure Watchouts
Be sure that your dental professional knows your total health history before he or she performs a scaling and root planing procedure. The procedure can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream, so precautions may need to be taken to treat gum disease in people who are at increased risk for infections, such as those with heart problems, liver disease or a compromised immune system due to an illness, such as HIV.