What is Dental Scaling and Root Planing?

What is dental scaling and root planing? Here at Wimmer Dental in Centennial, we use this type of cleaning for those patients who may have symptoms of gum disease. If you have ever had your teeth cleaned by a hygienist, you probably know that routine professional cleaning involves scaling the gumline and your teeth to remove tartar and plaque. Your hygienist will also polish your teeth to smooth your teeth’s surfaces and remove stains. A planing and scaling treatment, on the other hand, is a deeper form of cleaning when you need more than your regular cleaning.

When is the Scaling and Planing Procedure Used?

When your teeth and gums are healthy, your gum tissue fits closely to each tooth. When plaque and tartar build up under the gums and around your teeth, the tissue that should cling to your teeth starts to loosen and periodontal disease begins to develop. This allows deep pockets to forms in your gums.

A healthy gumline will only have 1 to 3-millimeter depths when measured by your hygienist. Your gumline measurements will start to exceed 4 millimeters if there’s an issue. Other symptoms of gum disease include bad breath and heavy tartar, in addition to the deeper gumline measurements.

The Procedure

So, what is dental scaling and root planing? Performed by your hygienist or by your dentist, this deep cleaning treatment often takes more than one appointment to complete. The heavier your gum disease, the more appointments you may need. The procedure can be a bit uncomfortable so often a general anesthetic is used.

The first part of the procedure includes scaling all plaque, tartar and bacterial toxins from your teeth and root surfaces. The scaling removes as much of the problematic material as possible. Once it is removed, your roots and gums are planed, or smoothed. Smooth surfaces on your roots and gums are a deterrent to bacterial growth. Tartar and plaque have no place to adhere to your gumline. Ideally, the lack of plaque and bacteria allow your gums to reattach firmly and heal.

Following the Procedure

You will need at least one follow-up appointment to ensure that your gums are healing as expected from the scaling and root planing. Your hygienist or dentist will want to re-check your gumline pockets and inspect your mouth for any issues. In many cases, the good news will be that your gums are recovering nicely and are now firmer and pinker than they were before the procedure.

The amount of bleeding gums should be much more reduced and your gumline pockets should be smaller when measured. If your gums and teeth responded well to the treatment, you may need no additional treatments other than your regularly scheduled checkups and cleanings. You should follow the recommendation offered by your dentist or hygienist. They know best what course to take to keep your mouth healthy.


The planing and scaling treatment is not entirely risk-free. Scaling and root planing can cause harmful bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Your gums can also get infected following your procedure. Your dentist or hygienist may recommend taking antibiotics before and/or after the root planing and scaling procedure, particularly if you have any health conditions that increase your risk of a serious infection.

Examples of health conditions that may increase your risk of infection include heart problems, weakened or suppressed immune systems, or anyone who has recently experienced a major surgery. If you have such a health condition, be sure to share your condition or conditions with your dentist or hygienist. It is important that your overall health is taken into account when formulating a treatment plan for your teeth and gums.

Serious Periodontal Conditions

One or more scaling and planing visits, on the other hand, may not solve more serious periodontal conditions. In such cases, surgical intervention may be required to stop bone loss and halt the advance of the periodontal disease. A scaling and planing procedure is often used first though, to lessen the amount of surgery. Your dentist will make a plan to determine the best course of action for your situation.


Following a treatment for periodontal disease, whether it was planing and scaling and/or surgery, you may need more frequent maintenance and cleaning visits. Sometimes, your dentist will schedule you for check-ups every two months, or possibly every four months, or more.

Do not be alarmed if you need to visit your dentist more frequently. This is just to ensure that the treatment you received does not need to be repeated and that your gums remain healthy. Frequent follow-up visits allow for any remaining or reoccurring issues to be spotted and treated before a more serious issues develop. Frequent visits are a useful way to avoid needing surgery. 

Prevention of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease can be quite sneaky. Sometimes you have little to no warning prior to experiencing a major gum issue. Regular check-ups and cleanings can help avoid gum disease. Prevention starts with a solid mouth care routine which should include the following:

  • Brushing twice a day with a good toothbrush and toothpaste. Fluoridated toothpaste is generally recommended. Electric toothbrushes can be especially effective.
  • Replace your toothbrush if the bristles are worn or misshapen. Regardless of its condition, you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Floss daily to remove food from in between your teeth, crowns, implants, or bridge work. Though some recent studies indicate flossing may not be necessary, our experience is that flossing encourages better oral health.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking slows healing. Smokers have a higher propensity for oral health issues. Quitting can improve your oral and overall health very quickly.

What is dental scaling and root planing? Knowing more about how this procedure can benefit you and treat your gum disease is worthwhile. If you have symptoms of potential periodontal disease, call us here at Wimmer Dental in Centennial. We can help you get your mouth back to a healthy happy and healthy state.

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