What is scaling and root planning?

As part of your oral health regimen, it’s important to see your dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and examination. The cleaning portion of the appointment typically involves removal of plaque and tartar, plus polishing to remove stains and smooth the surface of your teeth. However, if you have symptoms of gum disease, you might need a more complex cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing.

What is scaling and root planing?

Scaling is a non-surgical procedure that cleans your teeth below the gum line, where the bacteria-filled plaque that causes gum disease usually accumulates. Receding gums are especially vulnerable to gum disease, so even if your teeth are otherwise healthy, your dentist might recommend scaling during your routine cleaning appointment.

What is teeth scaling

Root planing is a procedure that follows dental scaling, smoothing out the root surfaces to keep plaque and tartar from reforming underneath the gumline. Root planing also allows your gums to heal and firmly reattach to your teeth.

In severe cases of gum disease, scaling and root planing are required before gum surgery to prepare for the procedure and aid in the healing process.

What happens during the procedure?

During the dental scaling procedure, your dentist will use a hand-held dental scaler and curette (sickle-shaped instruments) to scrape off all the plaque and tartar deposits from your teeth.

Dentists can also use an ultrasonic scaling instrument either instead of or in conjunction with a manual dental scaler. Ultrasonic scaling instruments feature a vibrating metal tip that breaks tartar loose from the teeth and rinses it away with a built-in sprayer, which also keeps the vibrating tip cool to the touch.

After the plaque and tartar are removed with scaling instruments, your dentist will use similar instruments for root planing. The main difference is that root planing reaches deeper below the gumline to address the surface of the tooth root, so the gums can reattach properly.

Does dental scaling and root planing hurt?

Dental scaling and root planing can be uncomfortable, especially if you have sensitive gums, but your dentist can numb your gums and teeth roots with a local anesthesia to decrease your discomfort during the procedure. Your whole mouth can be scaled and planed in one visit, although your dentist might prefer to work in one quadrant of your mouth at a time.

After the procedure, you can expect minor tenderness once the anesthesia wears off. It’s important to maintain a consistent oral health routine afterward to restore your gums to their healthy, firm appearance and prevent further gum disease. Your dentist might also recommend a prescription mouthwash to use in the days following the procedure to keep your gums extra clean.

All your dental specialties in one place

Sedation and Implant Dentists offer dental scaling and root planing, plus a wide variety of other dental specialty services. Our dentist are experienced and compassionate, and we’re proud to offer a comprehensive range of services under one roof. For more information or to schedule a consultation, give us a call today at (626) 872-6352.


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by Thomas Gonzales D.D.S.

Thomas Gonzales D.D.S. is a Los Angeles dentist with advanced training in dental implants. He has 46 years’ experience and is licensed in IV Sedation. Dr. Gonzales has taught courses worldwide on dental implants including for Noris Medical, Nobel, Neodent, LVI Global and Dental Implant Institute. He was a professor of IV Sedation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine and a neuromuscular dentistry instructor for Loma Linda Medical Center. He is a member of several prestigious organizations, including: the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, American Academy of Implant Dentistry, American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation and American Dental Society of Anesthesiology. Dr. Gonzales is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. He served in the United States Army and is a Vietnam War Veteran.

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