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What is scaling?

Scaling goes much deeper than a standard cleaning, reaching below the gumline to remove plaque buildup and is often referred to as “deep cleaning.”

What is root planing?

Root planing reaches deeper to address the surface of the tooth’s root. Done in the same manner as scaling, root planing smooths the surface of the root so the gums can reattach properly.

When are scaling and root planing necessary?

Everyone experiences some form of plaque buildup. Saliva, bacteria, and proteins in your mouth form a thin layer that covers your teeth at almost all times. When eating, tiny particles, acids, and sugars from food stick to this film and create plaque buildup on the teeth. The bacteria living in this plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay.

With healthy gums, the tissue fits tightly around the tooth, keeping plaque out. However, if gum disease starts to form, this tissue loosens. Healthy gums attach to the tooth from just 1 to 3 millimeters below the gumline. Gum disease develops deeper pockets that can fill with plaque and worsen problems. If pockets of 4 millimeters or more exist, scaling likely will be recommended.

What is involved in scaling and root planing?

The dentist may use handheld instruments, inserting a thin metal tool known as a dental scaler and curette beneath the gumline to access tough-to-reach plaque. Alternately, an ultrasonic instrument may be utilized, featuring a vibrating metal tip combined with a cool water spray. The tip chips tartar away as the water flushes out the pocket.