Scaling and Root Planing in Dentistry

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Periodontitis is a serious gum disease that should not be left untreated. If a dentist is not seen to treat the gums, the individual may begin to lose teeth. Although periodontal disease is serious, there are several types of valuable treatments available.

Surgery is a common course of action, but depending on the severity of the condition, a non-surgical procedure called root planing and scaling may be appropriate.

Process overview

Root planing and scaling is actually a thorough tooth cleaning procedure that is ideal in the early stages of periodontitis. During this time, the individual’s teeth may develop abnormal pockets or spaces between the teeth. As these pockets enlarge, the teeth will separate from the gums and eventually fall out.

Excess bacteria present on the teeth can also be accidentally ingested and make the individual sick. This situation is very serious for people with heart-related conditions because bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the chambers of the heart.

Scaling and root planing are usually given as a single treatment under local anesthetic unless there is a significant amount of tooth damage. During the “scaling” portion of the procedure, the dentist uses power tools to remove excess bacteria from the teeth. The bacteria can be in the form of plaque, tartar, or decay.

The “brushing” part of the procedure involves cleaning below the gum level. Because bacteria may not be visible, the dentist feels for rough surfaces and uses a handpiece to remove any dirt or bacteria. There are two common types of hand instruments: an ultrasonic instrument or a scaler. Dental patients tend to prefer the ultrasound instrument because it causes less discomfort.

Suitable candidates

To determine whether a person’s periodontal disease is appropriate for root planing and scaling, dentists use a guide from the American Dental Association (ADA). According to the ADA, gum disease that extends 3 to 6 millimeters below the gum line is suitable for root planing and scaling. Gum disease deeper than this amount will likely require surgery.

After the procedure

Because root planing and scaling involve the dentist working on sensitive areas of the teeth and gums, people may experience some soreness, soreness, and minor bleeding after the procedure. The individual may also notice a temporary sensitivity to hot or cold drinks.

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