Scaling and Root Planing: Common Questions

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A non-surgical procedure, scaling and root planing is used regularly in the treatment of advanced periodontal disease. Despite the scary name, it is essentially a deep clean which removes plaque from both the visible surfaces of your teeth and deep beneath your gums.

As with all dental procedures, the more you know about what to expect, the better. Knowledge of how the process works will allow you to be as relaxed as possible on the day of your appointment. 

Here are the answers to questions you may have about scaling and root planing. 

When is scaling and root planing necessary? 

Scaling and root planing is carried out when regular tooth cleaning is no longer effective. Large scale deposits of tartar can build up on your teeth beneath the gum line. This can cause separation of the gum from the teeth. Bacteria from food remnants etc. can then become trapped in this gap between teeth and gum causing inflammation and infection. The tools used in scaling and root planing are able to get deep beneath your gums and remove these tartar buildups and allow for re-sealing of the gap between teeth and gum.  

What is the process? 

Firstly, a local anaesthetic will generally be used to numb the area. This is because the tools will be penetrating down to the roots of the teeth. Once the anaesthetic has kicked, in a machine will be used to remove tartar from your teeth, this initial clean will go only slightly beneath your gum line. Once this stage is complete, the dentist will use manual scraping tools to go deeper beneath your gum line and clean around the roots of the teeth. 

Is it painful? 

The anaesthetic ensures that you shouldn't feel any pain during the procedure, though you may feel some pressure or discomfort during the clean. Immediately after the anaesthetic has worn off, expect to have sensitive or swollen gums. However, an over-the-counter painkiller should be enough to ease any pain you are feeling. You should not experience high levels of pain, and if you do have severe pain or bleeding, you should contact your dentist. 

What about aftercare? 

As the roots have been explored, your teeth may be sensitive for a few days after the procedure. Use a soft toothbrush and a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and avoid sensitising foods such as ice cream. You should also keep up good oral hygiene, flossing and brushing regularly and incorporating a mouthwash into your regime. 

If you have any other questions about scaling and root planing, you should contact a periodontist.