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3 Commonly-Asked Questions About Dental Scaling And Root Planing

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Regular dental cleaning is an essential part of maintaining healthy teeth. Dental scaling and root planing are among the most important of cleaning techniques, yet many people fail to understand their purpose. If you would like to learn more about this process, read on. This article will answer three common questions about scaling and planing.

What is dental scaling and root planing?

Scaling and planing actually comprise two different techniques, though they are almost always performed at the same time. In tooth scaling, a dentist uses a metal tool known as a scaler to scrape plaque and tartar off the surface of your tooth. Special emphasis is paid to the root surfaces that lie just below your gum line.

Root planing, which is performed once the scaling process is complete, involves the smoothing of root surfaces. Because plaque and tartar have an easier time accumulating on a rough surface, root planing helps to slow their growth until your next cleaning. In addition, the planing process also helps to remove any plaque and/or tartar left behind after the scaling phase.

Why is scaling and planing so important?

Though consistent brushing and flossing are important parts of dental health, alone they are not enough to prevent plaque and tartar from building up. This is especially true of the areas below the gum line, which can only be properly cleaned using scaling and planing techniques.

If scaling and planing is not performed regularly, bacterial buildups can lead to irritated and/or inflamed gums. Eventually the gums will weaken, losing their grip on the surface of the tooth. As a result, they will begin to recede, exposing vulnerable portions of the root and making it easier for plaque to take hold. Left untreated long enough, this can lead to the devastating gum disease known as periodontitis.

What are the side effects of the scaling and planing process?

It is common to experience a degree of sensitivity and even pain after you've been to the dentist for scaling and planing. This is especially true for those who were already dealing with tooth sensitivity prior to the procedure. Such pain can be addressed through the use of toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth. In extreme cases, your dentist may even prescribe a fluoride varnish to be applied to the exposed portions of your roots.

It is also common to experience sore and tender gums in the days following a scaling and planing treatment. A small amount of bleeding when brushing and flossing is also natural. Be sure to contact your dentist if such conditions persist for more than a few days. 

For more information, contact Family & Cosmetic Dentistry or a similar location.