Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scaling and Root Planing

What is scaling?
Scaling is a periodontal dental procedure in which plaque and calculus are removed from the tooth both above (supragingival) and below (subgingival) the gum (gingiva)

What is root planing?
Root planing is a procedure in which diseased or altered portions of the root surface, the cementum, and dentin are removed and the resulting new surface is made smooth and clean. The more altered and damaged the root surface has been from calculus (tartar) accumulation, the more the need for root planing.

Why is it necessary?
The purpose of scaling and root planing is to remove all debris from the teeth. Any item that can cause inflammation of the gum tissue must be eliminated. The root surface must be made as smooth as possible. Irregularities in the root surface can contribute to gum inflammation. Irregularities are sites for bacteria and plaque buildup. The bacteria and the toxins they produce in the plaque are held against the tooth by the calculus. In this way, plaque and calculus on the teeth have been positively linked to gum disease.

What is the procedure like?
Depending on the severity of your particular periodontal problem, scaling and root planing may be the definitive treatment and no further procedures will be required. In many cases scaling and root planing are only a necessary part of the overall therapy. It is a demanding procedure. It requires much more time than the familiar adult prophylaxis (cleaning). It is usually done in multiple appointments, treating a quarter, half mouth, or your full mouth at each appointment. In this office we find that most patients are most comfortable if the area to be treated during the root planing procedure is anesthetized with a local anesthetic.

The scaling and root planing may have to be repeated in the future. It is customary to place the patient on a 3- to 4-month hygiene recare schedule. Scientific evidence clearly shows that for individuals who have demonstrated a predisposition to periodontal disease, an interval of 6 months is too long. We will determine the appropriate interval for you. As your situation changes, there may be changes in the length of these intervals as well.

What happens after treatment?
Other than the teeth being somewhat sensitive after the scaling and root planing procedure, there is little postoperative discomfort. The sensitivity will diminish with time. If you have been diagnosed as having severe periodontal infection, the sensitivity may remain for quite some time and further procedures may be needed to eliminate sensitivity. Although many procedures in dentistry can be considered elective, we consider scaling and root planing to be a necessity for your dental health.

Post-procedure Tips:
  • If therapeutic prophylaxis has been completed because your gingival (gum) tissue showed signs of infection and inflammation, and if you had significant calculus (tartar) buildup:
    • You may notice that your teeth feel different where the calculus was removed. The soft tissues may be sensitive or sore for approximately one day as they begin to heal. You may find that taking an over-the-counter pain reliever (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) will help during this 24-hour period. You may also rinse your mouth every few hours with warm salt water. Make sure that you brush and floss your teeth during this time period as you have been instructed. be gentle, because the brushed areas may be sore, but be thorough! You do not want to have the periodontal infection begin again.
  • If scaling and root planing, or other more involved periodontal procedures has been completed:
    • You can expected your gingival (gum) tissues to be quite sore. This is normal when the gum tissues have been infected and inflamed for some time. The more severely they have been affected, the more discomfort you can expect. This soreness should go away very quickly. You may rinse with warm salt water every few hours until the soreness is gone.
  • If scaling and root planing has been completed:
    • You may also notice that the teeth have become sensitive to temperature changes after the scaling and root planing. This sensation frequently occurs when the surfaces of the roots of your teeth have been cleaned. Removal of the debris covering the roots and attached to the roots leaves the roots open to temperature stimulus. If the problem persists, please let us know.
  • When you examine your gums closely in a mirror, you will also observe that the color, texture, and position of your periodontal tissues will undergo a change as the healing takes place. The swollen, reddened gum tissue will shrink, become more firm, and return to a healthy pink color. Watch for these welcome signs of improvement and be encouraged by the healing process.
  • Please do not forget to brush, floss, and use other periodontal cleaning aids as you have been taught. It is important that you begin establishing proper oral self-care habits immediately. If you find that the recently treated areas are sensitive to the brushing and flossing, be gentle - but be thorough! With proper technique you cannot damage the teeth or gingival tissues.
  • Brush after ever meal with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinse with a fluoride-containing mouthrinse once each day.
Preventing Recurrence
Once scaling and root planing has been completed, it is most important for you to practice the brushing and flossing techniques in which you will be instructed. If we have recommended any additional periodontal aids, you must use them, too. Your cooperation is vital if the procedures are to be successful. To remain disease-free, you will need to remain constant in your oral self-care regimen.

If you have any questions about scaling and root planing, please feel free schedule a comprehensive dental exam with our office at 512-250-5012.


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    1. Betty, thank you very much for your feedback, it helps so much to see interest in our posts. Please check back in daily for more information and let us know if there are any questions you may have.

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