If your dentist has prescribed scaling and root planing (sometimes referred to as a “deep cleaning”) you may be wondering what this means and what your experience will be. Scaling and root planing is a common dental procedure and is performed by a dental hygienist in most cases.
Why Do I Need Scaling and Root Planing?
Scaling and root planing (SRP) is a procedure your dentist will recommend if you have a significant amount of calculus buildup on your teeth beneath the gum line. Calculus is hardened plaque that is difficult to remove even with specialized dental instruments. This tenacious bacterial buildup results from poor oral hygiene habits, particularly lack of flossing. Often times, people with calculus beneath the gum line (“subgingival”) have deep gum pockets as well. Reaching the depths of these pockets for adequate cleaning is usually not possible without causing moderate to significant discomfort. For that reason, scaling and root planing is a procedure done under local anesthesia.
The removal of calculus is important because of the secondary problems it can cause, including:
• Gum recession
• Gum irritation/inflammation
• Deepened gum pockets
• Bone loss
• Destruction of tooth surface
A Two-Part Procedure
First, your dentist in Chicago, IL will numb the area in which SRP will be performed. Often times the area will be one quadrant of the mouth; for instance, one half of your lower jaw. The “scaling” component of the procedure refers to the actual removal of calculus. This is done with specialized hand instruments and/or ultrasonic devices.
“Root planing” is done following the removal of calculus. When calculus attaches to tooth surfaces, it breaks the tooth down and creates rough, uneven areas. This roughened tooth surface is more conducive to further buildup of plaque and calculus. For that reason, the rough tooth surface is “planed,” or made smooth again. Smooth tooth surfaces are much easier to keep clean and are less prone to gathering harmful bacteria. As with scaling, root planing is done with specialized hand instruments.
Once the procedure is complete and the numbness has worn off, it is not uncommon to experience some mild discomfort. Your dentist will advise you on ways to manage this as well as how to prevent buildup in the future.
For the most part, SRP is a fairly simple treatment and has little to no post-procedure complications. Like all dental therapies, scaling and root planing can be a great way to get your oral health back on track.