Deep Scaling and Root Planing

Deep scaling and root planing is an effective way to treat many forms of periodontal disease.

When you have a normal cleaning, the hygienist only cleans your teeth above the gums. For people with healthy gums, it is not necessary to clean below the gum level because food and debris do not get stuck there.

When you have periodontal disease, though, there is a pocket that forms between the tooth and the gums where food and debris get stuck and build up. This buildup is called plaque. When the buildup has been there for a while, it calcifies (just like bones) and becomes hard; it is then called calculus (also known as tartar).

Since this plaque and calculus is below the gum level (you usually cannot see it) and securely stuck to the teeth, no matter how much brushing and flossing you do, you will not be able to remove it on your own. A hygienist needs to remove it for you using either manual scraping instruments or an ultrasonic tool. The tooth’s root surfaces, which tend to harbor bacteria, are smoothed or planed, allowing the gum tissue to heal. Once this treatment is complete, another appointment will be made to check how the gums have healed and periodontal pockets have decreased.

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What happens during a deep cleaning?

Depending on how many of your teeth need to have the deep cleaning, the whole process can take up to 4 visits. It is very important that the hygienist spends sufficient time cleaning your teeth and gums.

At each visit, the hygienist will first have the dentist give you something to numb your gums and teeth. Then, the hygienist will begin cleaning your teeth, specifically concentrating on that part of your tooth that is below the gums.  After the deep cleaning your gums may be a bit sensitive for a day or two, but your teeth and gums should feel much cleaner.

How often do I have to have a deep cleaning?

Ideally, you only have to have a deep cleaning once your life.  Once all the food and debris have been removed from your teeth and gums, you are starting with a clean slate.

The key to the success of deep cleaning is good oral hygiene. This means that no matter how good of a job the hygienist does, the only way the deep cleaning is going to achieve the desired goal of getting the periodontal disease under control is if you floss, brush, and rinse as directed by the dentist and hygienist.

If you do, at the checkup visit after all the deep cleaning is completed, we will see a great improvement in the health of your teeth and gums. We recommend rotary toothbrushes because they do a wonderful job at helping to clean your teeth without putting too much force on your gums.

What happens after the deep cleaning?

6 to 8 weeks after the treatment we will reevaluate your gums.  If the gum pocketing has returned to normal levels, we will see you every 3 to 4 months in order to closely monitor your periodontal health.