Scaling & Root Planing

Nobody plans on getting gum disease, but it happens -- to most of the population, in fact! Like cavities, gum disease is caused by a buildup of dental plaque bacteria, resulting in dental calculus, or dental tartar. Over time, dental plaque and its cohorts will creep beneath the gum line, forming "pockets" between the teeth and gums. The larger these pockets grow, the worse gum disease gets. As dental calculus fills the pockets of your gums, it starts to destroy the bone, greatly impairing your teeth as well.

A non-surgical approach known as scaling is the first in a series of periodontal procedures used for gum disease treatment. During tooth scaling, an instrument called a scaler is used to remove dental plaque and dental calculus from beneath the gums. While it's a common practice to manually scrape away deposits, many dental offices are now equipped with ultrasonic dental cleaners, which use ultrasound vibrations to break up dental calculus.

Once the dental plaque and dental calculus have been removed, the area that has been scraped leaves a jagged appearance. Planing is the procedure used to smooth the tooth's root. Why is this necessary? Root planing helps gums heal: It's easier for gums to reattach themselves to a smoother root than one still suffering from the results of gum disease. The smooth surface also helps keep dental plaque from attacking the tooth's root, making it easier to maintain the gums following dental treatment. While scaling and root planing helps prevent gum disease from spreading, it may be able to reverse the signs of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.

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