What is Scale and Root Planing?

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Dental scaling is often performed on patients who have gum disease or an excessive buildup of plaque. While a traditional cleaning addresses the surface of the tooth, scaling deeper that the surface level. It is helpful to understand the process of dental scaling and root planing at edgerton and glenn dds to better prepare for to expect.


Scaling is a dental procedure which is commonly used for patients who have gum disease. Scaling is a form of dental cleaning which goes below the gumline to remove the buildup of plaque. A scaling and root planing procedure is commonly called a deep cleaning. The treatment goes beyond a general cleaning patients receive at a routine checkup and cleaning.

Everyone experiences varying degrees of plaque buildup. The combination of saliva, bacteria, and proteins in the mouth form a thin layer which covers your teeth. When you eat, small particles, acids, and sugars from the food can stick to this layer of film. This process creates a buildup on the teeth also known as plaque. The bacteria living in the plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings can aid in removing the plaque and help prevent more serious issues.

For patients with healthy gums, the tissue fits tightly around the tooth. This protects the tooth by keeping the plaque out. In cases where gum disease begins to form, this tissue around the tooth starts to loosen. Healthy gums attach to the tooth approximately 1-3 millimeters below the gumline. With patients who have gum disease, they start to develop deeper pockets. These pockets can begin to collect plaque and cause symptoms such as bad breath.

The dentist will likely recommend dental scaling for patients who have pockets 4 millimeters or more. Scaling removes the plaque that has collected beneath the gumline and helps to treat the gum disease.

Scaling and Root Planing

Dental scaling involves the strategic removal of plaque bacteria from the surface of the tooth just below the gumline. There are two different methods used for scaling the teeth. If the dentist uses handheld instruments, they will scrape plaque from the tooth using a metal tool called a dental scaler and curette. The dentist inserts this thin tool under the gum line to access the plaque your toothbrush is not able to reach.

The dentist can also use an ultrasonic instrument to scale the teeth. This instrument works by using a vibrating metal tip which is combined with a cool water spray. The tip chips tartar away while the water simultaneously flushes out the pocket.

Dental scaling is often followed by a procedure called root planing. Root planing reaches deeper below the gum line to address the surface of the root of the tooth. This is completed in the same way as dental scaling. Root planing works by making the surface of the root smooth which allows the gums to reattach properly.

Dental scaling can be a bit uncomfortable. This is especially uncomfortable for patients with sensitive gums. The dentist may provide you with a local anesthetic to numb the gum tissue during the procedure. If you are concerned about possible pain or discomfort, talk to your dentist about your options.

Dental scaling can require multiple visits, as each visit will address a different portion of the mouth. Some dentists chose to separate the mouth into four quadrants. Others opt to perform the dental scaling by separating the mouth into two halves. Depending on the severity of your gum disease, the dentist may be able to complete the scaling in a single visit.

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