What is Scaling and root planing: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

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What is Scaling and Root‍ Planing: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

Periodontal disease, also known as gum ⁣disease, is an infection that affects the gums and other structures that support the teeth. It is caused by the buildup of plaque and ​tartar on the teeth‌ and is ‌the ​leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical periodontal treatment aimed at controlling ‌and treating periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease. It is ​typically the ⁢first line of defense ⁤against the progression of periodontal disease, especially when it is caught‌ at the earliest stages.

What is Scaling and ‌Root Planing?

Scaling ‌and root planing (SRP) is ⁢a procedure used to remove tartar (calculus), plaque, and bacterial toxins that have accumulated along the gum line. During the procedure, the hygienist or dentist will use specialized instruments to remove ‌the plaque and tartar from above‌ and below the gum line. The root surfaces of the teeth are then smoothed and/or planed to remove any bacterial toxins that have built ⁢up along the roots.

Benefits of Scaling and Root Planing

The primary⁢ benefit of SRP is that it can help to reduce gum inflammation and‍ redness, ‌control infection, and improve oral health. ⁢It can also help in the​ prevention of tooth loss by reversing the damage caused by periodontal disease and providing an improved​ foundation for healing. In addition, SRP‍ can reduce the risk of ⁤serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and systemic⁢ bacterial invasion that have been linked to periodontal disease.

What to Expect During and After Scaling and Root Planing

Before the procedure, the patient’s teeth are ⁢thoroughly examined ⁤to assess the severity of periodontal disease and determine the best‌ course of action. During the procedure, the teeth will be scaled with special instruments to remove Tartar and plaque, and then ‍root planing will be done on the roots of the teeth. This helps to smooth ​out any surfaces that ⁤are rough⁣ and remove bacteria and toxins. The procedure is typically done under local ⁤anesthesia⁢ to help minimize any discomfort⁢ and take​ approximately one⁤ to two hours.

After the procedure,⁣ the patient ‌may‍ experience some ​soreness or swelling around the gums ⁤that usually‌ lasts‌ for a few days. Discomfort can also be reduced⁤ by brushing and flossing‌ gently as well as taking over-the-counter or⁤ prescription medications as recommended by the dentist. The dentist may also suggest warm salt rinses or antiseptic mouthwash to help reduce inflammation and‍ bacteria.

The Role ​of Maintenance Visits in Scaling⁤ and Root Planing

Since periodontal disease is a chronic condition, it is important to have regular maintenance visits with the dentist ⁣or hygienist to monitor progress and keep complex medical issues from arising. These visits typically include teeth cleaning, ​X-rays to check for ‍pockets, and other procedures that may be required ‌to maintain optimal oral health. During these visits, the dentist or hygienist will assess the ⁣status of your periodontal health and advise‌ you on ⁤any treatment or care that is necessary to prevent any recurrence or progression of ‍periodontal disease.


Scaling‌ and root planing is a common procedure used to treat gum disease and reduce the risk of further complications. It can help​ combat further buildup of⁣ plaque‌ and tartar, reduce inflammation, and prevent the progression of periodontal disease. Regular maintenance visits should be⁢ made in order to monitor the progression ​of gum‌ disease and to prevent any⁣ recurrence. With proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist, the patient can expect to maintain a healthy smile and improved oral health.

Definition and Overview

Scaling and root planing are two of the most common dental procedures performed to remove plaque and tartar buildup to prevent tooth decay, as well as smoothen and save the gums from further damage due to bacteria. Both are parts of deep or comprehensive dental cleaning. These procedures are non-surgical and are performed to prevent the need for more serious procedures such as root canal and periodontal surgery.

Who Needs It and Expected Results

Everyone can benefit from regular dental cleaning, which is recommended once every six months. This helps fight tartar and plaque buildup, reducing the possibility of gum disease. Meanwhile, scaling and root planing are specifically for patients who already have periodontal pockets or are suffering from periodontal disease. These procedures are also ideal for minor cases of tooth decay or damage wherein the teeth can still be saved as opposed to being extracted. Normally, scaling and root planing is performed in conjunction with other dental treatments such as teeth whitening and dental filling.

Depending on the severity of the gum disease and the presence of calcified deposits, these procedures may be performed in quadrant with each session lasting for about an hour.

Although the procedures can be performed using local anaesthetic, patients can expect mild discomfort as well as pain following the procedure. Swelling and minor bleeding are to be expected as well.

How Does It Work?

Both scaling and root planing are non-surgical outpatient dental procedures that can be performed under local anaesthesia depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s level of anxiety. The procedure, which is performed by a periodontist, starts by removing plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth’s surface using curette or a dental scaler. An ultrasonic instrument may also be used. As its name suggests, the hand piece uses ultrasonic waves to break down the deposits. The device also has the ability to spray small amounts of water to further soften the plaque and remove those that have already been chipped off.

This is followed by root planing, which is performed to smoothen the surface of the roots to speed up the healing process and to significantly reduce the possibility of bacterial growth that can pose serious dental problems later on. In cases that involve deep periodontal pockets, the periodontist may opt to flip the gums and clean the area thoroughly to ensure that there’s no bacteria left behind.

Possible Risks and Complications

Serious complications from root planing and scaling are very rare. This is because they are non-surgical and usually don’t involve the use of general anesthesia.

One of the most common side effects of the procedures is swelling. Gums are very sensitive, and they can easily get bruised. However, the swelling should subside within the next few days. Bleeding may also be present, but it should not last for several hours, and it should be minor.

If the gum disease is severe, it may take a few more appointments before the gums start to shrink or recede. For others, this may be frustrating and thus may decide to stop the treatment altogether.


  • American Dental Association.Adults Under 40. Available at: www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-under-40. Accessed 10/29/14.
  • Chow AW. Infections of the Oral Cavity, Neck, and Head. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 65.
  • Messadi DV, Younai FS. Halitosis. DermatolClin. 2003;21:147-155.
  • Shay K. Dental and oral disorders. In: Duthie EH, Katz PR, Malone ML, eds. Practice of Geriatrics. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 39.



  1. Very informative article – perfect for the person who’s just starting to learn about scaling and root planing!

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