If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, your periodontist may suggest a procedure called “scaling and root planing” as a form of treatment. Understandably, you might have questions regarding this procedure. What is it? Is it painful? How long does it take to recover? These are all valid questions. We’re going to delve into the basics of scaling and root planing so you can take on your appointment with a sense of confidence and ease.
What is scaling and root planing?
Scaling and root planing is a nonsurgical therapy used to treat gum disease when efforts to control the disease at home aren’t enough. Typically it’s suggested when the initial stage of gum disease known as gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis. When this happens, the gums have receded enough from your teeth to create deep pockets where plaque and bacteria thrive. Scaling and root planing cleans out the pockets in your gums, dislodging plaque and tartar beneath the gum line and allowing them to heal. Once healed, the soft tissue of the gums will fit more snugly around your teeth, providing a greater barrier to bacteria.
There are two parts to this procedure. While scaling, your periodontist uses a scraper tool to eliminate plaque and tartar from around the tooth’s root. The specialized tool is needed to remove the tartar because it is calcified and can’t be removed by regular brushing. After the tooth’s roots have been cleaned, the planing process smooths the teeth roots enabling the gums to reattach.
What are the benefits?
Scaling and root planing are highly effective for preventing worsening effects of gum disease, but that’s not the only benefit. With this simple, non-invasive treatment, you can expect improved breath since it stops tooth decay in its tracks. It helps to prevent tooth loss because the gums will fit more tightly around your teeth once the pockets are addressed. It also protects the tooth’s roots; as bacteria builds beneath the gum line, we can’t target it with normal brushing and flossing. A professional with the right tools is required to extract the plaque and tartar from beneath the gums.
Is it painful?
This is a fairly routine procedure, so you won’t have to take off work or worry about driving home afterward. If you’re anxious, you can bring headphones to listen to music. Your hygienist can apply a local anesthetic to numb the gums and surrounding areas, so it shouldn’t be a painful process.
You may experience some discomfort after the treatment as your gums will be extra sensitive. Your gums may swell or bleed slightly. Typically, an antibiotic mouth rinse is prescribed to prevent the risk of infection. In some cases, a topical medication is prescribed for the pockets beneath the gums. Over-the-counter pain medication can also be effective in managing any discomfort you may experience.
What happens after my appointment?
After receiving your scaling and root planing procedure, your periodontist will want to schedule a follow up appointment to determine how well your gums have responded to treatment. In some cases, you may need to visit more frequently (in three month intervals rather than six) or repeat the treatment, depending on how deep the periodontal pockets are.
The goal is to see shrinkage in the pockets so your gums can heal. After receiving treatment, it’s important to keep up with your oral hygiene regimen and continue regular visits with your dental hygienist to prevent the condition from returning.