Root Planing & Scaling

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Planing and Scaling is a deep cleaning method used to clean the whole of the tooth in order to help with problems like gum disease in its early stages.  The teeth naturally build up plaque and tartar which you then remove by brushing.  If this isn’t effective against the build up and you have plaque deep towards the roots of your teeth, then it is likely that you will need to have your teeth planed.  Planing and scaling is also common when gum disease has started to split the gum from the tooth.  This can cause bacteria to work its way towards the base of your teeth which in turn could cause you problems such as bone or tooth loss.

Scaling – removing plaque and other irregularities from the surface of the tooth, be it the dental crown or the root.

Planing – removing rough parts of the surface of the tooth, (cementum, enamel and surface dentin), that contains bacteria or microorganisms

These are usually used in conjuction with each other in a technique also known as ‘deep cleaning’. 

The Root Planing and Scaling Method

You will be given a local anaesthetic to the area being treated, usually through the use of an injection.  This numbs the roots of the teeth as well as your gums so that during the procedure you won’t feel any pain.  This takes a few hours to wear off after the planing and scaling are complete.

Sometimes you will have to have the treatment spread out over two or more visits depending on the extent of the gum disease and how many teeth need cleaning.

Your dentist will use a cleaning tool, a bit like a scalpel, to scrape off the plaque and tartar between the tooth and the gum, right down to the roots.  Sometimes ultrasonic machines can also be used, but this is usually only for more advanced cleaning. 

Antibiotic soaked fibres are often inserted between your teeth and gums in order to speed up the healing process and to stop any infection.  Normally after one week these are removed.

You ought to be in little pain after the procedure, for 2 or 3 days afterwards you may need to take day to day pain killers such as iboprofen or paracetemol, but any discomfort or increased sensitivity will quickly subside.  There is also likely to be small amounts of bleeding for about a week after the treatment. 

Root Planing and Scaling Recovery

After this procedure it is very important that you start a very intensive oral hygiene routine, in order to keep your teeth clean and to help prevent infection.  Try to brush your teeth after every meal and use a recommended mouth wash regularly.

You will be in some pain or discomfort for a few days after root planing and scaling.  To help you can use warm salt/water mouth washes every couple of hours to help with pain and to enhance the healing process.

Try not to touch the area that has been deep cleaned with either your tongue or with your fingers.  This will only serve to aggravate the gums.

Do not take aspirin as pain relief, this thins the blood and makes bleeding worse. 

Hot drinks and spicy foods ought to be avoided after root planing and scaling as they can aggravate the gums.  It might be more comfortable for you to stick to a softer diet for a few days after the procedure. 

Smoking will only delay your healing process, it is recommended that you refrain from smoking for at least three days following root planing and scaling.

It would be a wise idea to try to change your toothbrush as much as possible for a week or so after root planing and scaling.  This is because gum disease bacteria might still linger in your mouth, and you might be re-applying them by using the same toothbrush.  

Root Planing and Scaling Results

How well the procedure works is very dependant on the aftercare that you give your teeth.  If you stick to a high standard of oral hygiene then it is likely that any gum disease will stop and your gums will completely heal. 

Root Planing and Scaling Risks

It is possible that after root canal planing and scaling, your gums will start to shrink.  This can cause your teeth to look bigger as more of the lower parts are revealed and could potentially cause problems such as cavities.  The worse the gum disease in the first place, the more likely it is that this will happen.  There are methods which can help to prevent this, and your dentist will give you advice. Sometimes your lymph glands swell after this procedure, this can be addressed by your doctor. Planing and Scaling does involve methods that will make infection possible.  This occurs when germs and bacteria become integrated into your bloodstream, and it is possible that this can happen into the gums.  Infections are easily treated if caught early in their development, through the application of antibiotics.

You are more at risk from infection due to this procedure if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have an ineffective immune system
  • Have a heart condition
  • Have had other major surgery recently
  • Have had artificial organs or body parts

Planing and scaling is seen as a safe and simple procedure that yields good results when you follow your dentists advice.  It can help stop gum disease and can enable the gums to heal properly over time.