Root Planing and Scaling

Root Planing and Scaling

A common staple of advanced restorative and general dental care is root planing and scaling. Many people have misconceptions about how root planing and scaling work, so we want to go over the basics this dental procedure right now.

About Root Planing and Scaling

Also known as deep cleaning, root planing and root scaling are a means of addressing dental health issues that affect the hard-to-reach point where the teeth and the gumline meet. This allows dentists to remove plaque and tartar down at the gumline while also helping treat or prevent gum disease.

How does deep cleaning differ from a regular dental cleaning?

While one may assume that deep cleaning is just a variation on a traditional dental cleaning, that is definitely not the case. A traditional dental cleaning uses an electric brush and professional toothpaste in order to polish the teeth. By contrast, a deep cleaning treatment involves the use of special scraping and cleaning tools that separate the gum tissue from the tooth structure, allowing a dentist to really access various dental health problems down at the gumline.

The Distinction Between Root Planing and Scaling

It should also be noted that there is a difference between root planing and root scaling even though many people think that these are synonymous:

  • Root planing refers to the careful removal of tooth structure that is infected or decayed down at the gumline and the subsequent smoothing out of this tooth structure
  • Root scaling refers to the removal of tartar and plaque down at the gumline with the use of a dental scraper

The Root Planing and Scaling Procedure

A typical root planing and scaling treatment is performed on one-quarter to one-half of a patient’s mouth in one session. The procedure is carried out under local anesthetic in order to prevent any undue pain or discomfort.

During the deep cleaning procedure, patients will simply sit back and relax as their dentist and the dental hygienist work on addressing the teeth and gumline area carefully and meticulously. A typical deep cleaning session will last roughly an hour to an hour and a half.

After root planing and scaling, patients can expect numbness from the anesthetic to continue through the day. Patients should brush and floss as they normally would, but they should be more delicate given the sensitivity of their gums and teeth.

Why Root Planing and Scaling Is Performed on Only Part of the Mouth

There are two reasons why a dentist will only perform deep cleaning on half of the mouth or just a quadrant.

For one, the effects of the local anesthetic used during the deep cleaning procedure may last for the remainder of the day. Using local anesthetic on a patient’s entire mouth may prove quite inconvenient to a patient, making it difficult to eat and speak. To avoid this larger inconvenience, only part of the mouth is treated during a session.

The second reason is time. Since a deep cleaning session on just part of the mouth takes roughly an hour already, the amount of time to safely perform root planing and scaling on the entire mouth can take twice that amount of time if not more. In order to make the visit more convenient for the patient and not take up more of the patient’s day, multiple visit are required.