While some patients are not enthusiastic about their twice-yearly cleaning visits to the dentist, most can agree that their teeth feel clean, look great, and are less sensitive when they leave. Sometimes, though, a simple cleaning is not enough. Scaling and root planing are two procedures that can provide a more in-depth and thorough cleaning. Not everyone needs this kind of deep cleaning, but if you do, here’s what you need to know.

What is a scaling and root cleaning?

Scaling and root cleaning literally goes deeper than the average tooth cleaning, all the way below the gumline. While most semi-annual cleanings are adequate to remove plaque and tartar, for some people, scaling and planing is necessary.

When plaque buildup is not removed regularly, the bacteria in plaque can cause gums to become inflamed. This inflammation pulls the gum away from the tooth, forming a periodontal pocket. This gap allows plaque and bacteria to travel below the gumline into these pockets. Once there, the plaque can continue to build up, causing more serious problems.

The first stage of this type of gum disease is gingivitis. Generally, gingivitis can be treated with a basic cleaning and improved oral hygiene. Once plaque has built up below the gumline, your dentist will need to go deeper.

Scaling and root planing are two separate procedures that use the same tool – a handheld arched scaler. Scaling scrapes plaque and tartar (plaque that has hardened) from above and below the gumline. Planing then uses the same tool to smooth the rough edges of the tooth’s roots. This allows the teeth to reattach to the gums, preventing further bacterial invasion.

Scaling can also be done with an ultrasonic tool that removes some plaque and tartar below the gumline. A manual scaling is usually needed to remove whatever remains.

What can you expect? Scaling and root planing before and after

Depending on the extent of the pockets, you may need more than one appointment for scaling and root cleaning.

You may or may not need a topical or local anesthetic. Your dentist may also use a mild dose of lidocaine if you are nervous about pain. Some “pain-free” dental practitioners offer nitrous oxide or prescribe a mild relaxant for their patients to take prior to the procedure. Other dental practices offer a numbing gel that can be injected into the pockets themselves, thereby eliminating the numb lips and cheeks that come with lidocaine injections.

For most people, the procedure is more or less like a regular cleaning with a bit more attention to certain areas of the mouth. Some dental offices break the work into quadrants of the mouth. This is typically done when there is extensive scaling and root planing needed and the patient requires lidocaine or a numbing agent. Your dentist doesn’t want to send you out in the world with a completely numb face!

What else can you expect after this procedure?

Will my teeth look different after scaling and root planing?

Because plaque and tartar build up occurs below the gumline, you may not notice any difference after your scaling and root planing. If the plaque and tartar was causing swelling and redness in the gums, that should diminish noticeably after your procedure.

Will my teeth feel different?

Gums should become more firm and less painful than before.

Many people also notice that their teeth and gums are less sensitive, and less prone to bleeding during brushing, after the procedure.

Does scaling and root planing hurt?

For most patients, teeth scaling pain is rare.

The main sensation patients report is just the physical feeling of pressure and the sound of scraping. If either of these send you through the roof just thinking about them, it is important to talk with your dentist to alleviate your fears. Dental anxiety is one of the main reasons people avoid the dentist. Without treatment, gum disease can progress with disastrous consequence.

If you have any concerns about pain, scaling and root planing effectiveness, or the cost of the procedure, talk with your Phoenix area family dentist. They can help ease your fears.

Scaling and root planing post op instructions

Scaling and root planing are two procedures that are very effective at preventing the progression of gum disease. While the rewards for this deep cleaning are many, there are scaling and root planing risks for some patients. Scaling and root planing can introduce bacteria to the bloodstream, which can cause infection. Patients with impaired immune system function are also at higher risk for infection after the procedure.

In both of these cases, you may still be able to receive scaling and root planing. Work with a highly-trained dentist, and if your dentist prescribes pre-procedure antibiotics to prevent infection, follow their directions for use.

After your deep cleaning, you may experience minor pain and swelling that can be controlled by ibuprofen. Your teeth may also be sensitive to hot and cold for a week or so afterwards. Bleeding, if there is any, should be minor and brief.

At your follow-up visit, your dentist will check the depth of your pockets. If the pockets are deeper, there may be a more serious issue, such as periodontal disease. For many people, scaling and root planing will be all that is needed to stop the progression of disease.

Taking care of yourself at home is important. Avoid sticky, hard, or spicy foods for the first few days after your deep cleaning. Rinse with a saline solution or antimicrobial mouthwash, if prescribed by your dentist, two to three times a day for the week following your scaling and root planing, then just once a day thereafter. If your teeth are still sensitive, use a special toothpaste to help decrease sensitivity.

The best long-term care is proper brushing and flossing. If you aren’t sure what that means, ask your dentist for a complete tutorial. They’re happy to help!

AZ Dentist works closely with patients for the best possible outcomes. We want to be your Arizona dental clinic. Get in touch today for your first consultation and a thorough evaluation of your oral health.

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