Your dentist may recommend that you get your teeth scaled. This procedure is generally conducted along with root planing. In more common terms, these procedures are known as a “deep cleaning.”
Teeth scaling and root planing help to treat chronic periodontal disease (otherwise known as gum disease). They are more in-depth than a typical teeth cleaning.
Teeth scaling and root planing often take more than one dental visit and could require a local anesthetic based on the severity of your chronic periodontal disease and if you have receding gums.
Recovery from this outpatient procedure usually only takes a few days but may take longer.
Your dentist will recommend teeth scaling and root planing if your mouth has signs of chronic periodontal disease. These procedures can help stop the harmful effects of this condition and keep your mouth healthy.
Chronic periodontal disease occurs when the bacteria in plaque cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. This causes large pockets to grow between your teeth and gums, and more bacteria can grow there that you cannot reach with teeth brushing at home.
That’s why it’s key to floss regularly to reach spots that toothbrushes can’t.
If left untreated, chronic periodontal disease can lead to:
- bone and tissue loss
- tooth loss
- loose teeth
- moving teeth
Chronic periodontal disease affects nearly half of the U.S. adult population over the age of 30. Some of the reasons you may develop this condition include:
- poor dental hygiene
- changes in hormones
- poor nutrition
- family history
- other medical conditions
You may experience deep pockets between your gums and teeth with chronic periodontal disease, but there are other symptoms of the condition, including:
Teeth scaling and root planing can be done at your dentist’s office as an outpatient procedure. You may need to schedule one or more appointments for the procedure depending on the severity of your condition.
Your dentist may or may not need to use a local anesthetic to lessen the discomfort of the procedure. If you are concerned about pain, discuss this with your dentist.
Your dentist will first conduct teeth scaling. This involves scraping the plaque from your teeth and in any large pockets that have developed between your teeth and gums.
Next, your dentist will do the root planing. Your dentist will smooth the tooth roots using a scaling tool. This smoothing helps your gums to reattach to your teeth.
Your dentist may also recommend additional treatment depending on the health of your teeth and gums. Your dentist may use antimicrobial agents in your mouth or prescribe oral antibiotics for you to take for several days to help you heal faster.
Your dentist may also perform a process called host modulation in which additional medication is administered directly into your gums to help correct the negative effects of long-term periodontitis or reduce the chances of infection following your procedure.
Traditional tools are typically used to perform the procedure, including a scaler and a curette. But there are other instruments available for teeth scaling, such as lasers and ultrasonic devices.
Your dentist may also recommend a full mouth disinfection. A 2012 study concluded that new tools and procedures for teeth scaling and root planing are no more effective than traditional methods.
Teeth scaling and root planing are considered to be the “gold standard” treatment for chronic periodontal disease. A 2015 review of 72 journal articles on these procedures found that they improved the pocket gap between teeth and gums by .5 millimeters on average.
By reducing the pockets that develop between your teeth and gums through teeth scaling and root planing, you will reduce your risk of experiencing tooth, bone, and tissue loss associated with chronic periodontal disease.
The risks of teeth scaling are minimal. You may be at risk for infection following the procedure, so your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic or a special mouthwash to use for a few days or weeks.
When to call the dentist
Following dental scaling and root planing, contact your dentist immediately if you experience any of the following:
- worsening pain
- the area doesn’t heal as expected
- you have a fever
You may also experience pain and sensitivity for a few days following the procedure as well as tenderness in your gums.
Any side effects of the procedure should clear up within a few weeks. If they don’t, contact your dentist.
Teeth scaling and root planing may take more than one trip to your dentist’s office. Your dentist will likely recommend that you return for a follow-up appointment to make sure the procedure worked and that you haven’t developed any complications like infection.
Your dentist may recommend coming back for another procedure if the pockets didn’t shrink.
You should resume normal oral care procedures after your teeth scaling and root planing. This includes brushing your teeth at least two times a day and flossing regularly. You should also eat a healthy, balanced diet and see your dentist for regular cleanings to prevent the condition from returning.
In fact, you’ll likely be placed on a periodontal maintenance cleaning schedule, returning for regular cleanings every three to four months versus the standard cleanings every six months.
Teeth scaling and root planing are common procedures to treat chronic periodontal disease. Your dentist can perform this outpatient procedure at the dentist’s office with or without local anesthesia.
You may need more than one appointment to complete the procedure. You may experience mild side effects following the procedure for a few days or a week.