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Dental Scaling & Root Planing

What does my dentist mean by "dental scaling" and "root planing"?

For some of us, professional cleaning of the teeth is insufficient in maintaining our oral health. Those with recurring gum problems or gum disease often require a procedure known as "dental scaling" that goes beyond a basic cleansing of the surface of the teeth. Scaling involves a more in-depth removal of plaque and tartar in an effort to maintain the health of the gums and gum line.

Dental scaling is not known to be an intrusive or painful procedure. Once anesthesia is administered, the dental professional will use instruments to carefully remove pockets of plaque buildup from the teeth. This is similar to a basic prophylaxis cleaning, but in a scaling, the dentist or hygienist will focus heavily on the gum line. This is an area that often receives less cleaning and maintenance attention than the surfaces of the teeth, but is crucial to our oral health. These small pockets can trap plaque and even small bits of food debris for months or even years at a time, so close attention must be paid to them.

Often going hand-in-hand with dental scaling is a procedure known as root planing. Here, the dental professional will smooth and even out rough spots deep in the roots of teeth, which can also serve as traps for debris and bacteria. Again, these procedures are predominantly simple and painless, though some degree of numbness and tenderness is to be expected from any dental procedure that involves anesthesia and instrumental plaque removal.

Typically, dental scaling and root planing are a quick and straightforward procedures. However, dental professionals often prefer to perform them in segments, one quadrant of the mouth at a time, so prepare for multiple visits to finish the work.

While dental scaling and root planing are somewhat in-depth procedures aimed at reducing the risk of serious gum problems, they do not indicate that your teeth are a lost cause. Maintaining oral health can assist your dental professionals at keeping tooth and gum problems at bay. A consistent routine of tooth-brushing, flossing, and visits to your dental professionals for cleanings and examination are crucial to maintaining the health of your teeth AND gums.