Visiting Your Hygienist: What’s Dental Scaling and Root Planing?

What’s Dental Scaling and Root Planing?
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Gum disease can be a painful and unpleasant experience. This disease — also known as periodontal disease — occurs when the tissues and bones surrounding your teeth become inflamed and infected.

Gum disease can range in severity from mild gingivitis, which only affects the soft tissue surrounding the teeth, to the more severe version known as periodontitis. Periodontitis spreads to areas below the gums and damages the tissues and the bones supporting the teeth.

In order to treat periodontitis, gum surgery may be required; however, not all treatment options are as invasive. Dental scaling and root planing may be recommended to help treat a particularly stubborn case of gum disease and keep it from getting worse.

In some cases, gum surgery is inevitable; however, dental scaling and root planing may be performed prior to surgery to remove plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth along with a thorough cleaning.

How does gum disease occur?

If you visit an oral hygienist at least every six months, they will usually clean of all those hard-to-reach places as well as polish your teeth.

However, even if you maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing after meals, you still require a dental professional to examine your teeth and a hygienist to remove any unwanted build-up that a toothbrush simply cannot do. In some situations, such as cases of gum disease, a deeper cleaning process is required.

Gum disease is caused by a film of bacteria known as plaque, which builds up on your teeth. Plaque formation is normal, but if teeth are not cleaned properly, the bacteria in the plaque can eventually cause inflammation in your gums.

Healthy gums fit tightly around each of your teeth, but as your gums continue to play host to these plaque-forming bacteria, they cause your gums to pull away from the teeth, which creates pockets of space.

When the bacterial plaque and tartar begins to accumulate around and under your gums and eventually gets trapped inside of these pockets, it becomes extremely difficult to remove with regular brushing. This creates a vicious cycle where the gum pockets continue to harbour the bacterial plaque and tartar, which continue to deepen the pockets.

Regular dental check-ups can help catch gum disease at an early stage before too much damage has occurred. If caught in its early stages, professional cleaning can suffice. However, if the pockets between your gums and teeth have become too deep, dental scaling and root planing may be required.

What are dental scaling and root planing?

Dental scaling and root planing are part of a two-step deep cleaning process that aims to clean below the gum line and are used as a treatment for gum disease. The steps include:

  1. Dental scaling

    This process involves the removal of all plaque and tartar deposits and bacterial toxins that have formed above and below the gum line. As well, they’ve gone inside of the pockets which have formed between your gums and teeth.

  2. Root planing

    This process involves smoothing out the roots and rough areas on your teeth so that your gums can become reattached to your teeth. When root surfaces are smoothed out, it helps keep bacteria, plaque, and tartar from reattaching to areas underneath the gum line. If these areas remain clean, your gums can fully heal and reattach to your teeth more firmly.

Dental scaling and root planing can be a lengthy procedure requiring more than one visit to complete and can be done under a local anesthetic.

When it comes to dental scaling, two main types of tools are utilized to help remove the plaque and clean out the pockets which have formed in your gums. These scaling instruments include:

  1. Hand-held instruments

    These instruments include a dental scaler and curette, which allows the dental professional or hygienist to manually remove the plaque and tartar from your teeth. Plaque and tartar are not visible, and therefore, dental hygienists use touch to assess areas where tartar build-up has occurred.

  2. Ultrasonic instruments

    The ultrasonic scaling instrument contains a metal tip that vibrates to help chip away at tartar build-up and sprays water to help wash away the plaque.

Dental Scaling and Root Planing Aftercare

When you walk out from the dentist after deep cleaning, you may experience sensitivity in your teeth and, in some cases, pain. This pain and sensitivity, along with swollen and tender gums, is normal and can last up to a week.

Some preventative methods can be used to help prevent future infection, control the pain, and speed up the healing process. In order to prevent any infection within the gum pocket, which was cleaned out, an antimicrobial may be placed directly inside of the pocket.

A mouthwash or rinse may also be recommended by the dental hygienist to help reduce any bacteria in your mouth. A follow-up visit will be required following your deep cleaning procedure to ensure that your gums are healing properly and to determine whether the depth of your gum pockets has increased or not.

If your teeth and gums respond well to the dental scaling and root planing procedure, you may not require any further treatment. However, in some severe periodontal disease cases, surgery may be a requirement. Luckily, the dental scaling and root planing that is done prior to surgery can help reduce the amount of surgery that is required.

Once you have undergone a deep cleaning, maintaining good oral health is the key to healthy teeth and gums. You can help prevent gum disease from recurring or escalating by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing after meals to help clean the spaces between your teeth.

Sugary foods and drinks are also some of the biggest culprits for bacteria build-up in your mouth, so steering clear of excessive sugars is one of the best ways to avoid damaging your teeth.

Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can also be a great way to help clean your mouth. Smoking can also be very harmful to your teeth and gums, not to mention for your overall body. Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, but its harmful effects are not limited to your lungs.
If you are a smoker, do your body a favour and set a goal to quit. Committing to your oral hygiene routine is essential to maintain strong and healthy teeth and gums.

The signs and symptoms of gum disease can sometimes sneak up on you. If you’re suffering from mild or severe gum disease, there’s no reason to fear. Dental professionals are equipped to help treat your gum disease, starting with dental scaling and root planing to help manage the infection and will only turn to surgery if it’s necessary.

To learn more about dental scaling and root planing, call Bristol Dental Clinic today at 905-712-3409 or contact us here.

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