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What to Expect During Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing “deep clean” your teeth. They also treat periodontal (gum) disease.2 A dental hygienist or dentist can perform this cleaning method. A periodontist, a doctor who specializes in gum health, can also perform scaling and root planing.2

A Two-Step Process

The first step is scaling. This involves scraping away the tartar buildup on teeth, both above and below the gum line.2 Tartar develops when plaque, a sticky film of naturally occurring bacteria, hardens on teeth.1 The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more damage can occur to teeth and gums.2

Root planing comes next. It involves removing rough areas on the root below the gumline where germs grow.2 Bacteria create the infection that causes gum disease.2

Medicines May Be Part of Treatment

As part of your scaling and root planing, your dental health professional may suggest medicine to help control bacteria in your mouth. He or she might apply an antibiotic gel during your cleaning. This local antibiotic helps kill germs in the pockets around teeth. It works for many days after treatment. Your dental health professional may also suggest a prescription antibacterial mouthwash.2

Deep cleaning can help control gum disease. But it is only part of the solution.2 Brushing twice and flossing at least once each day are important. That helps remove the bacterial plaque that causes gum disease.1

1 “Oral Health Topics A-Z. Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums (Oral Hygiene).” American Dental Association. Accessed 2009.

2 “Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, June 18, 2009. Accessed 2009.

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