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Root Planing and Scaling for Gum Disease

Root planing and scaling is one of the most effective ways to treat gum disease before it becomes severe. Root planing and scaling cleans between the gums and the teeth down to the roots. Your dentist may need to use a local anesthetic to numb your gums and the roots of your teeth.

Some dentists and dental hygienists will use an ultrasonic tool for the planing and scaling. This tool is not as uncomfortable as a standard scraping tool, but not all cleanings require this type of tool.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

Children and Orthodontics

If your child has crooked teeth or a misaligned jaw, it may be time to pay a visit to an orthodontist. An orthodontist specializes in perfecting smiles using orthodontic appliances, such as: bands brackets wires headgear rubber bands retainers WebMD takes a look at common forms of orthodontics and gives you the facts you need to make an informed decision about orthodontic treatment.

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Your dentist may place antibiotic fibers into the pockets between your teeth and gums. The antibiotic will help speed healing and prevent infection. The dentist will remove the fibers about 1 week after the procedure.

What To Expect After Treatment

If anesthesia is used, your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours. Planing and scaling causes little or no discomfort.

Why It Is Done

Root planing and scaling is done when gums have either started to pull away from the teeth or the roots of the teeth have hard mineral deposits (tartar) on them.

How Well It Works

If you maintain good dental care after the procedure, the progression of gum disease should stop. And your gums will heal and become firm and pink again.

Risks

Root planing and scaling can introduce harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Gum tissue is also at risk of infection. You may need to take antibiotics before and after surgery if you have a condition that puts you at high risk for a severe infection or if infections are particularly dangerous for you. You may need to take antibiotics if you:

  • Have certain heart problems that make it dangerous for you to get a heart infection called endocarditis.
  • Have an impaired immune system.
  • Had recent major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve.

What To Think About

  • Root planing and scaling is a simple procedure that can work very well to stop gum disease.
  • Brush and floss regularly afterward. Without proper dental care, your gum disease may progress.
  • To promote healing, stop all use of tobacco. Smoking or using spit tobacco reduces your ability to fight infection of your gums and delays healing. To learn more, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Last Revised August 5, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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