If you have gum disease, you may need a root scaling and planing procedure to get rid of it. This is a serious condition that can lead to the eventual loss of bones and teeth. We will follow all possible treatments to prevent gum disease and other painful conditions. At A Briter Smile, we encourage you to visit our dental office twice a year so we can do just that. We want to remove plaque and tartar before they cause gum disease, receding gums and the need for this procedure. However, if you need a scaling and root planing procedure, we can help and make sure you are as comfortable as possible during it.
What are periodontal scaling and root planing?
In this procedure, plaque and tartar are removed below the gumline. This can be done using a metal dental tool, ultrasound, and laser energy. A dentist will break up plaque and tartar before removing them. If the roots also have plaque buildup, the root planing procedure will roughen them to remove the plaque and then smooth out the rough areas so the tooth can be healthy and fully functional.
How long do scaling and root planing take?
In most cases, this procedure will need to be split into four appointments. This allows the dentist to separate your mouth into quadrants and clean each individually. Since the process is very methodical, it takes longer than a standard dental cleaning and the gums may experience some irritation and inflammation. By cleaning only one area of the mouth at a time, the process is more manageable and recovery time is reduced.
Will the dentist use anesthesia?
Yes, your gums will be numb before the root scaling and planing procedure begins. Some dentists may also use nitrous oxide or other forms of sedation to help you relax before starting. When sedation is used, a dentist can sometimes perform more of the procedure in one sitting. Also, you can use desensitizing toothpaste afterward to further numb your gums.
What are the risks associated with the procedure?
There is a risk of developing an infection from this procedure. You can help reduce the risk by rinsing with warm saltwater throughout the day and keeping your teeth clean. We can also prescribe an antibiotic rinse for you to use. However, the biggest risk comes from not completing the procedure at all. This can lead to more serious gum disease, gum recession, and even tooth loss.
What should I expect during and after scaling and root planing?
During the procedure, you can expect to have your gums numb and your teeth cleaned very slowly and methodically. Most often, ultrasound is used to help break up plaque and tartar before a dental tool scrapes it from the tooth. Some dentists use lasers to perform the entire procedure. Because your gums will be numb, you will feel some pressure, but you shouldn’t feel any direct pain or discomfort. However, afterward, your gums will be sore, swollen, and maybe sore in general. You can help control this with ibuprofen and ice packs if needed. Usually the worst passes within four hours, so you might just want to go home and sleep. In rare cases where your jaw is sore and stiff, you can put a warm compress on it.
For several days to a week or more, you may feel some sensitivity while eating, especially if you eat something sweet. One way to approach this is to use something gentle to clean the area, then place desensitizing toothpaste on a cotton swab so it can be applied gently to the area around the gums.
Can I eat normally after a root planing and scaling procedure?
No. We recommend avoiding anything hot for two days and not eating anything crunchy like nuts or crisps for four days. This is to ensure that your gums do not experience further irritation. At the same time, your gums may be sensitive to sugar, so avoid sweets or treats for several days. If you have a sweet tooth, try a sugar-free popsicle.
What happens to my gums after they have healed from the procedure?
Your gums should start to return to normal and there should be no long-term restrictions on what you can eat. By removing plaque and tartar, your gums should begin to return to good health. This means that the swelling you experienced will decrease, they will return to a healthy pink color, and they will no longer be irritated in general. As long as the procedure works as it should, you won’t need more invasive gum procedures. However, if you’ve waited a long time and your gums have already started receding, this may not be enough. You may also need a future gum graft procedure.
Date reviewed: August 2020, Larissa Hirsch, MD
Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/14/2020.
3-Adjunctive Use of Antimicrobials With Scaling and Root Planing
Available online 23 March 2021,