Scaling & Root Planing

Scaling and Root Planing Overview

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The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough cleaning that includes scaling and root planing. The objective of these non-surgical procedures is to remove etiologic agents such as dental plaque and calculus (tartar) which cause gingival inflammation and disease. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment or a preventative measure. They are commonly performed on mild to moderate cases periodontal disease.

What does scaling and root planing entail?

Dr. Nehring or Dr. Terry  only perform scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of the mouth, which may include taking x-rays and visually examining the mouth. Depending on the condition of the gums, the amount of calculus present, the depth of the pockets, and the progression of periodontitis, Drs. Nehring or Terry may recommend scaling and root planing.  To keep patients comfortable, local anesthesia is usually used during the procedure.

  • Scaling:
    When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque, which is attached to the tooth surfaces, is removed. The process especially targets the area below the gum line, along the root. Scaling is performed with special hand and/or ultrasonic dental tools. The ultrasonic scaling tool  includes an irrigation process to rinse the areas as well.
  • Root Planing:
    Root planing is performed in order to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed, which promotes healing, and also helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in the future.

Antibiotics or irrigation with anti-microbials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to reduce bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, Drs. Nehring or Terry may place antibiotic powder in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planing. This may be done to reduce bacteria and to improve healing.

When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, access is difficult for Drs. Nehring or Terry to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. In these cases, surgery may be recommended to restore periodontal health.

Benefits of Scaling & Root Planing Treatment

If treatment is successful, scaling and root planing may have many periodontal benefits. Improvement of other systemic diseases may be one of those benefits. Research has and continues to show, harmful effects of bacteria from periodontal infections travelling through the blood stream to affect other areas of the body. Affected conditions include: diabetes, cardiovascular, pregnancy, respiratory, oseoporosis, and cancer. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria that can affect these conditions.

Another benefit of treatment is prevention against tooth loss. When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, the risk for periodontal disease increases. As pockets deepen, more bacteria colonize,  leading to a chronic inflammatory response by the body and resulting in destruction of gum and bone tissue and eventual tooth loss.

Scaling and root planing may also improve reduce bad breath caused buildup and bacteria in the oral cavity. Superficial staining on the teeth will be removed during scaling and planing to improve the overall appearance of the teeth as well.