What you need to know about Scaling and Root Planing
Reasons for scaling and root planing
There are several reasons dentists recommend these non-surgical approaches:
- Disease prevention: The oral bacteria which cause periodontal infections can travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Research has shown that lung infections and heart disease have been linked to periodontal bacteria. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria and halts periodontal disease from progressing, thus preventing the bacteria from traveling to other parts of the body.
- Tooth protection: When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, there is a greater risk of periodontal disease. As pockets deepen, they tend to house more colonies of dangerous bacteria. Eventually, a chronic inflammatory response by the body begins to destroy gingival and bone tissue which may lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the developed world.
- Aesthetic effects: Scaling and root planing help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gumline. As an added bonus, if superficial stains are present on the teeth, they will be removed in the process of the scaling and root planning procedure.
- Better breath: One of the most common signs of periodontal disease is halitosis (bad breath). Food particles and bacteria can cause a persistent bad odor in the oral cavity which is alleviated with cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing.
What do scaling and root planing treatments involve?
Scaling is usually performed with special dental instruments and may include an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the crown and root surfaces. In many cases, the scaling tool includes an irrigation process that can also be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums that can help reduce oral bacteria.
Root Planing is a specific treatment which serves to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed in order to promote good healing. Having clean, smooth root surfaces helps bacteria from easily colonizing in future.
Is scaling and root planing painful?
The scaling and root planing procedure is not a painful process and causes little to no discomfort to the patient. Before the procedure your dentist will administer a topical anesthetic that will make the area completely numb.
What are the benefits of scaling and root planing? What is recovery like after scaling and root planing?
Scaling and root planing can remove the plaque and bacteria responsible for periodontal disease and also close any pockets that might have formed along the gums which typically allow bacteria to grow easily.
How long does scaling and root planing take?
After the procedure you may notice your gums feel more tender and sensitive to hot and cold. This is normal and should subside within a few days. It is best to stick to softer foods for just a few days and you may want to limit the drinks you consume if they are hot or ice cold beverages. If you experience tooth sensitivity for an extended period of time after your scaling and root planing procedure you should call your dentist to confirm that your recovery is proceeding healthily. As with any dental procedure there is always a slight risk of infection, however this is incredibly rare.
The entire scaling and root planing procedure can be performed in under an hour depending on the severity of your infection and the number of teeth that need to be treated. It is possible, if there is extensive gum disease and plaque buildup throughout the entire mouth, that your dentist may want to perform the procedure in two separate visits treating half of the mouth at each appointment. Only one procedure is needed to remove the infection entirely and with proper oral hygiene you should be able to avoid needing another scaling and root planing procedure in the future.
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