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Scaling and Root Planing

You may be familiar with the feeling, and you are dreading your next dental visit, perhaps fearing what your dentist is going to say. What if it’s gum disease? What does that mean? If you are experiencing sensitivity, or your gums bleed when you floss or brush, there may be a need for scaling and root planing. But don’t stress too much over it.

As long as you stick to the schedule recommended by your dentist and dental hygienist, scaling and root planing is one of the most effective ways to treat gum disease. What it does is clean between your gums and teeth, down to the roots of your teeth. Your dentist may need to use local anaesthetic to numb your gums and the roots of your teeth to make it more comfortable for you. These two procedures are basically deep dental cleanings.

Your dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic tool for the planing and scaling. This tool vibrates at a high speed and breaks apart the plaque and calculus buildup underneath the gums. Your dentist may opt to insert antibiotic fibers into the pockets between your teeth and gums, but this may not always be required. The antibiotics will help speed healing and prevent infection, and the fibers will need to be removed a week after insertion. Patients, who are at high risk of infection, will need to take antibiotics before and after the procedure to prevent an infection from entering the blood stream.

When is root planing and scaling necessary?

There are two different terms that dentists use to describe gum disease: gingivitis or periodontitis. To put it simply, gingivitis is a milder version of the gum disease, where your gums are inflamed and it is prone to bleeding when brushing or flossing. Periodontitis is the more severe stage of the disease where permanent damage to the bones around your teeth, otherwise known as bone loss, has occurred.

If gingivitis is what you have, your dentist will recommend more diligent brushing and regular flossing (at least 3 times a week) at home. But if you are suffering from periodontitis, then root planing and scaling will be prescribed to help heal your gums and teeth before resorting to more drastic measures such as surgery.

If you have gum disease, you may be experiencing pain, and there is a higher chance of tooth loss. Gum disease is linked to other health problems, because it causes the bacteria to enter your body. This triggers production of a protein that’s linked to heart disease and stroke. The inflammation caused by the bacteria triggers the body to fight it, thus stressing your immune system. This compromises your body’s ability to ward off disease.