Scaling and dental planing are two processes used by dentists when a patient has been diagnosed with gum disease. They are both performed in the dental office and involve little-to-no downtime afterward. The most common reason for this procedure is gingivitis, but it’s also performed on patients with periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is a condition of the gums that occurs as a result of an accumulation of dental plaque or bacteria on the teeth. Symptoms include inflamed gums that may bleed during brushing. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Gingivitis is a progressive condition that can evolve into periodontal disease if left untreated. Fortunately, enhanced attention to basic dental hygiene often returns the gums to their formerly healthy state. However, in some cases, a combined pair of processes known as scaling and root planing. These are generally recommended to patients whose gingivitis has reached the stage where gum tissues have loosened enough to form pockets of 4 or more millimeters in size.
Scaling and planing are otherwise known as non-surgical periodontal therapy. Following are brief descriptions of what they involve.
Scaling is a process in which the dentist removes plaque and bacterial buildup from the surface of the tooth, including just below the gum line. Scaling is performed in two ways — the dentist either uses a pair of handheld instruments known as a dental planer and a curette or performs the procedure using a vibrating ultrasonic instrument combined with a water spray. The vibrating tip of the instrument removes plaque and tarter buildup while the cool water spray flushes it out of the pockets on the gum line.
Root planing is a procedure that’s performed after scaling that is designed to smooth out the roots of the teeth in order to allow the gums to reattach to the teeth more easily. This procedure involves the same techniques used in scaling. Although scaling and planing are sometimes done during the same visit, it often takes two appointments.
Those with sensitive or sore gums may experience discomfort during both processes, so be sure to speak with your dentist about local anesthesia options if you suspect the procedure may go more smoothly if anesthesia is part of the picture.
Although there is no real downtime involved, your teeth may be tender and sore for up to a week after the procedure is performed, and you may experience light bleeding and swelling. Your dentist may prescribe a mild pain reliever and ask you to use an antibacterial mouth rinse in order to guard against infection.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our office at your convenience if you have questions or concerns about scaling and root planing or any other dental procedures.