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Here at D&D Periodontal Associates, we often use scaling and root planing to treat patients with periodontal disease. Quite frequently, we find people are confused about the difference between scaling and root planing and a normal hygiene appointment, called scaling and polishing. In fact the two treatments are quite different.

The Importance of the Dental Hygiene Appointment

Most people need a hygiene treatment every six months, even if they have good levels of oral hygiene and look after their teeth. A hygiene appointment is a preventative dental treatment as it is designed to help keep your teeth and gums healthy and free from disease. During your hygiene appointment, your teeth will be scaled to remove plaque and tartar, before being polished. Polishing your teeth leaves a nice smooth surface that makes it harder for bacteria to adhere to, and it can help to remove some surface stains.

You might also find that your hygienist will gently probe your gums using a special instrument. This is to measure the depth of the space in between your gums and your teeth. In healthy gums this space will be anywhere between 1mm and 3mm. A depth greater than this may be closely monitored, while depths of greater than 5mm are called gum or periodontal pockets and are likely to require a more in-depth treatment to clean them out. This is where scaling and root planing can be extremely useful.

What Dentists Do When Root Planing and Scaling Teeth

Scaling and polishing is to maintain healthy gums whereas hygiene appointment is aim to remove stains and clean your gums. Scaling and root planing will treat active gum disease or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that causes the gums to pull away from your teeth, which is why periodontal pockets, will gradually develop in between your teeth and gums (Read more: Periodontal Pockets Treatment). Scaling and root planing is a treatment designed to deep-clean your gums, as well as any tooth roots that have become exposed as the gums have begun to pull away from your teeth.

Dental Scaling and Root Planing to Keep Your Teeth and Mouth Clean

With a scaling and root planing treatment, your teeth will be scaled using special instruments to remove areas of tartar, and we will also scale any exposed tooth roots to remove tartar from these surfaces. Afterwards the process of scaling can leave tooth root surfaces feeling slightly roughened, which is why they need to be planed or smoothed. Planing these surfaces serves two purposes, as a smooth the surface is harder for bacteria to adhere to and it also makes it easier for the gum tissues to begin reattaching themselves to the tooth roots. During a scaling and root planing, we also clean out the pockets or spaces in between your teeth and gums, removing as much of the bacteria as we can. This helps the gums to heal more easily so they begin to fit more snugly around your teeth. If you have particularly deep gum pockets then we will sometimes place topical antibiotics into them. These are specially designed to slowly release the active ingredients, offering added protection for your gums.

As you can see hygiene appointment and scaling and root planing are two processes and quite different and often we will use scaling and root planing as part of an ongoing periodontal maintenance plan because it is very effective.