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Getting and maintaining a healthy smile involves more than keeping your teeth white and free from decay. You also need to take care of the structures within your mouth that support your teeth, such as your gums. The health of your gums is an integral part of your overall oral health. In fact, you risk losing your teeth completely if you neglect the health of your gums. Gum disease is a common issue for adults in the United States. Almost half of the adults in the US show some signs of gum disease. Gum disease occurs when harmful bacteria attack your gums and lead to inflammation and infection.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. It can cause your gums to bleed when you brush and floss, lead to inflamed gums and is a precursor to the more serious type of gum disease. The more serious type of gum disease is called periodontitis. Periodontitis can lead to severe side effects, including receding gums and tooth loss. Gingivitis can typically be reversed with an improved oral hygiene routine. Periodontitis, on the other hand, requires intervention from a dentist to treat and reverse. 

If you suffer from chronic gum disease, it is important to seek out treatment options that will stop the progression of the disease. In cases of chronic gum disease, the bacteria from plaque and tartar can get between the gums and teeth and create a scenario where you cannot get to them with brushing and flossing alone. If you do not address the problem, your gums will continue to pull away from your teeth, and the side effects of your gum disease will worsen. In chronic and severe gum disease, scaling and root planing are treatment options that can help you return your gums to health.

What is Tooth Scaling?

Teeth scaling is the process of removing plaque and tartar from below the gum line. You may also hear dental scaling referred to as ‘deep cleaning teeth’ or a ‘dental deep cleaning.’ When you go to routine dental appointments, the hygienist uses dental tools to clean and scrape the surface of your teeth to remove plaque and tartar. Dental scaling takes the process to the next level because it involves removing plaque and tartar that have made their way up under your gums. One of the side effects of periodontal disease is that it can cause your gums to separate from your teeth. The separation creates space for plaque, tartar, and bacteria to get between your teeth and gums when this happens. Teeth scaling is the process of removing the plaque and tartar from between your teeth and gums. This procedure is more invasive than the typical cleaning you receive and will be performed by a dentist.

Benefits of Scaling Teeth?

Research shows that some benefits of scaling teeth include less frequent bleeding of the gums and a reduced risk for tooth loss. The process can also help protect your roots from infection caused by plaque and tartar. Other benefits of scaling teeth include reducing or eliminating the side effects commonly associated with gum disease. These side effects include persistent bad breath, red/swollen gums, tender/bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, gums pulling away from your teeth, and change in the alignment of your teeth. You might need additional help from your dentist if the periodontal disease started to impact the alignment of your teeth or caused loose teeth. The biggest benefit of scaling teeth is that the procedure can help stop the progression of severe periodontal disease.

Why Do You Need Scaling and Root Planing?

What are scaling and root planing? Before you can determine if scaling and root planing are right for you, you need to answer that question. Scaling and root planing are often mentioned together as two parts of a dental deep cleaning procedure. Scaling is the process of removing plaque and tartar below the gum line, and planing involves smoothing down the roots after the procedure so the gums can reattach to the teeth. If you have periodontal disease, you may need scaling to remove plaque and tartar buildup between your gums and teeth. You need root planing after a scaling procedure because periodontitis and the process of scaling can both create separation between the teeth and gums.

Scaling and Root Planing Procedures

Scaling and root planing procedures, collectively known as deep teeth cleaning, are essential dental procedures for people who have been diagnosed with periodontitis. In some situations, a dentist may recommend scaling and root planing procedures even if you have not been diagnosed with periodontitis. If your dentist recommends scaling and planing without a diagnosis of periodontitis, it may leave you asking the question, ‘why do I need a deep teeth cleaning?’ Your need for scaling and root planing is assessed based on the current condition of your teeth. If there are signs that your gums are separating from your teeth, your dentist will likely recommend scaling and root planing. The reality is that some people live with chronic gum disease without realizing it. If it has been a long time since your last dental visit, it is possible that you developed gum disease and already have symptoms that require a dental deep clean.

You may have some questions before you make an appointment for scaling and root planing. Two common questions are: Does scaling and root planing hurt? How long do scaling and root planing take?

Do scaling and root planing hurt?

Your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to the area to get you ready for a scaling and root planing procedure. Chronic periodontitis can make your painful and sensitive – the local anesthetic will help prevent further pain during the procedure.

How long do scaling and root planing take?

Scaling and root planing may require more than one visit to your dentist to complete. The length of time needed to complete the two procedures will depend on the severity of your gum disease and how much plaque and tartar need to be removed. If you need an extensive amount of work, your dentist may split the process into more than one appointment and work on your mouth in segments.

Scaling and Root Planing Aftercare

It is important to learn about scaling and root planing aftercare before you schedule your procedures. Important questions to ask include: How long for gums to heal after deep cleaning? Is there any special care required after a scaling and root planing procedure? The exact amount of time it takes for your gums to heal after scaling and root planing is impacted by the severity of your gum disease. You may notice some bleeding and swelling, sensitivity, and pain for a couple of weeks following your dental deep cleaning. After a scaling a planing procedure, it is important for you to be diligent with your oral care routine to prevent plaque from building up again. Your dentist may also have you use a prescription mouthwash to help with the healing process.

Are There Any Risks for Having Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing risks include swelling, bleeding, sensitivity, pain, and discomfort in your gums. During the procedure, your dentist will administer a local anesthetic to make you more comfortable. After the procedure, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to make you more comfortable. As you consider the potential risks of scaling and root planing, it is important to remember that periodontitis comes with all of these risks but can also cause your gums to recede and lead to tooth loss. The discomfort from scaling and planing procedures is temporary, but periodontitis's side effects will continue to worsen without intervention.  

Scaling and Root Planing Cost

How much do scaling and root planing cost? Scaling and root planing costs will vary based on a few factors: the severity of your condition, the area where you live, and the type of insurance coverage you have. This procedure goes beyond basic cleaning, so you should not expect it to fall under routine care. To get an accurate breakdown of the cost, talk to your dentist and look at your dental insurance coverage details. The good news is that being proactive and treating periodontitis is much less expensive than dealing with the consequences of allowing your gum disease to continue without intervention.  

Find Where to Have Scaling and Root Planing Near You

The last question to answer as you explore treatment options for gum disease is, ‘Where can I find scaling and root planing near me?’ If you have advanced gum disease, you may need to seek out the services of a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. Some general dentists also offer scaling and root planing. A good place to start your search for scaling and root planing near you is with a visit to a general dentist. You can find a general dentist or periodontist near you with the help of The Smile Generation ‘Find a Dentist’ tool. This tool gives you access to a network of trusted dentists that you can explore based on your needs and your location.