Scaling & Root Planing

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The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough, deep cleaning, scaling and root planing, or SRP. The objective of these non-surgical procedures is to remove etiologic agents such as dental plaque and tartar, or calculus, which cause gingival inflammation and disease. Scaling and root planing removes bacterial deposits on the root surfaces under the gums, allowing the gums to heal.  SRP may be your only treatment for cases of gingivitis and early periodontitis, but is also included in treatment for more severe disease.

What do the procedures entail?

Drs. Pollack, Odrich or Sarmiento will only perform scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of the mouth, which may include taking x-rays and visually examining the mouth. Depending on the condition of the gums, the amount of tartar present, the depth of the pockets, and the progression of periodontitis, Drs. Pollack, Odrich or Sarmiento may recommend scaling and root planing. In some cases, local anesthesia may be used during the procedure, although very often only topical anesthetic creams are necessary.

  • Scaling:
    When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque that attaches to the tooth surfaces is removed. The process especially targets the area below the gum line, along the root. Scaling may be performed with a special dental tool called an ultrasonic scaler, or cavitron, but is usually also completed with hand scaling with specially designed instruments to reach below the gum line without damaging the gums. 
  • Root Planing:
    Root planing is performed in order to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed, which promotes healing, and also helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in the future.

Antibiotics or irrigation with anti-microbials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, Drs. Pollack, Odrich or Sarmiento may place antibiotic fibers in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planing. This may be done to control infection and to encourage normal healing.

When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. Consequently, surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health.

Benefits of Treatment

If treatment is successful, scaling and root planing may have many periodontal benefits. One is that it can help prevent disease. Research has proven that bacteria from periodontal infections can travel through the blood stream and affect other areas of the body, sometimes causing heart and respiratory diseases. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria that cause these conditions.

Another benefit of treatment is protecting teeth against tooth loss. When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, the risk for worsening periodontal disease increases. As pockets deepen, more bacteria are able to colonize, eventually causing a chronic inflammatory response by the body to destroy gingival and bone tissue. This leads to tooth loss.  SRP often allows the gums to heal, causing pockets to shrink and become more readily maintained.

Finally, scaling and root planing may make the mouth more aesthetically pleasing, and should reduce bad breath caused from food particles and bacteria in the oral cavity. Superficial stains on the teeth may also be removed during scaling and planing, adding an extra bonus to the procedures.