Scaling & Root Planing

Philadelphia, Main Line, and Ardmore, Pennsylvania Cosmetic Dentistry


Senior couple happy elderly love together man woman portrait gray hairPeriodontal disease is a severe inflammatory condition that affects the gums, ligaments, and bones that secure and stabilize the teeth. This form of gum disease develops when plaque builds up around teeth. Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that can harden into calculus if you do not brush and floss properly. Persistent plaque and tartar can invade the subgingival space, causing damage to the roots of teeth. To prevent damage from progressing, a dentist may recommend a deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. 

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What is scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing is also known as a deep dental cleaning. It is a corrective procedure that removes the plaque and tartar that sticks to teeth and roots above and below the gum line. 

The scaling and root planing procedure can reduce the symptoms of periodontal disease, which include:

  • Persistent or frequent bad breath, even after brushing
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth
  • Inflammation in the gum tissue around one or more teeth
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth or have gotten lower (teeth look longer)
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Sudden misalignment or change in the feel of the bite

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How does scaling and root planing work?

Oral hygiene: Scaling and root planing (conventional periodontal therapy). Medically accurate 3D illustration of human teeth treatmentScaling and root planing involves precise steps. 

  1. Local anesthesia. The dentist administers a local anesthetic to one side of the mouth to control pain. Within just a couple of minutes, the area is numb and is expected to remain so throughout the entire procedure. Numbness wears off over several hours. Patients should not eat until they have full sensation. 
  2. Scaling. This step in treatment involves removing plaque and tartar from all affected areas. Using a small instrument and circular, horizontal, and vertical motion, Dr. Marshall or our hygienist carefully removes all debris from the base of teeth and subgingival areas. 
  3. Root planing. Ongoing periodontal disease damages multiple layers of the tooth. Root planing is performed to smooth the areas of damage, which have been made rough by bacteria. This step focuses on areas below the gum line, where bacteria could cause infection in the bone.

After the procedure is complete, the mouth is flushed to remove any remaining debris. Once the numbing medication wears off, the treatment area may feel slightly tender or sore. Often, treatment is broken up into two separate appointments. Each focuses on one side of the mouth.

How long will results from scaling and root planing last?

It is our hope that scaling and root planing achieves long lasting improvements for every patient. Ideally, treatment will bring periodontal disease under control and we can resume the recommended routine cleanings twice a year. The need for repeat scaling and root planing treatment is determined by the severity of gum disease and each patient’s level of daily oral care. Daily habits and routine dental checkups can help you maintain the results of your deep cleaning. 

How can I prepare for scaling and root planing?

There is nothing that you need to do to prepare for your scaling and root planing procedure. If you are anxious, you may bring headphones with you to your appointment so you can listen to music or other entertainment. 

Dr. Marshall is committed to painless dentistry. Before your scaling and root planing procedure, you can discuss options to help improve your experience, such as sedation or the use of the Wand for your analgesic injections. 

Is scaling and root planing painful?

The scaling and root planing procedure is not painful because we administer local anesthesia before commencing with treatment. It is common for the area to feel sore or tender for a day or two after the procedure. We can suggest ways to help manage post-operative discomfort. Contact us if you have any questions. 

How can I care for my teeth after scaling and root planing?

After periodontal treatment, your teeth and gums are still vulnerable to bacteria. The goal of the scaling and root planing procedure is to reduce the damage that has been caused by ongoing infection. The focus then turns to prevention of further infection via daily oral care. After your treatment, it is crucial to brush your teeth twice a day and to floss every day. Your dentist or hygienist may recommend a particular mouthwash or toothpaste to meet your unique needs. Additionally, it is important to schedule follow-up appointments as recommended. This helps us to confirm that the pockets around affected teeth have decreased as anticipated and also maintain optimal dental health through routine cleanings and exams. 

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What are the risks associated with scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing is a safe, effective procedure that can prevent the need for more invasive periodontal surgery. Patients may experience gum irritation or tenderness, bleeding gums, swelling in the treatment area, and tooth sensitivity after their procedure. These typically resolve in a few days. There is a minor risk of infection associated with this treatment. Some patients may need to take antibiotics before or after their appointment to minimize this risk. 

Schedule a Consultation With Dr. Lindsey Marshall

If you are seeing the signs of gum disease, don’t hesitate to get ahead of the situation. Contact our office at (610) 649-0696 to schedule a confidential consultation with Dr. Marshall. Our office serves Ardmore, PA, and surrounding areas.

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