Scaling and Root Planing
A standard dental cleaning includes the removal of plaque and debris. A deep dental cleaning includes the removal of hardened tartar and calculus when indications of gum disease are present. The removal of this hardened material is known as scaling, followed by root planing, or the smoothing of the roots. At Michael Regan, DMD Family, Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry, we strive to help our patients have and maintain a healthy smile, which for many of our adult patients includes a deeper dental cleaning. We can help.
Having your teeth cleaned by a professional hygienist is a typical dental procedure that should be done at least once a year, more if needed. What you may not know is that the hygienist does more than simply clean your teeth, they also look for symptoms of gum disease.
Gum disease is an active bacterial infection of the soft tissue that supports your teeth in your mouth. Bacteria can be found all over your mouth, but the bacteria found in plaque and tartar are feeding on the sugars contained in this material. As the bacteria feeds, it releases an acid that decays your teeth and attacks your soft tissue. Your gums become infected. Gum tissue does not have a defense to this infection other than retreating. When gum tissue retreats, it also pulls away from your teeth and your teeth lose their support that helps keep them firmly in place.
Before your dental cleaning begins, our hygienist will complete a step known as tracking the gum pockets around your teeth. Gum pockets form as gum tissue pulls away from the source of the infection. The hygienist measures the depth of these gum pockets to determine if gum disease is present and the severity of it. Measurements exceeding 3mm is an indication that there is disease and action needs to be taken for your oral health. The first step of action is to remove the infection through scaling and root planing.
What is Scaling?
Scaling is the removal of hardened tartar and calculus, which is plaque that remained in place and then dried hard. It is something that should only be removed by someone who is trained to do so, otherwise damage to your enamel can occur.
Scaling is done through the use of two tools, an ultrasonic scaler followed by a hand scaler. The ultrasonic scaler uses a vibrating tip along with a direct blast of oxygenated bubbles. It feels almost like a power wash for your teeth. The oxygenated bubbles loosen the material and the vibrating tip removes the tartar and calculus. Some patients describe the feeling as exhilarating and clean, others find the sensation to be painful which we can reduce the discomfort with sedation dentistry if needed. When the hygienist feels that the job is complete, they will then double check the work using a hand scaler. A hand scaler is a hand held tool with a pointed tip that we can use to ensure that the infected material is gone.
What is Root Planing?
Once the tartar and calculus is removed, we can then focus on the tooth roots. Roots can become crinkled from the tartar that was present. We want to smooth the roots back in place. This will help promote healing and make it more difficult for tartar to settle again. This can help keep your teeth healthier longer.