Dental Visits Decoded: Scaling and Root Planing

If your dentist recommends a process called scaling and root planing, you likely need a “deep cleaning” to remove plaque and tartar from the roots of your teeth. In fact, root planing is only recommended for people who have been diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease that has caused bone loss. The combination of scaling and planing is usually recommended for people with moderate to severe periodontal disease.

Here’s what to expect:
First, your dentist, hygienist, or periodontist may apply a topical anesthesia gel to your gums to limit discomfort. They may also numb your mouth as they do for fillings. Then, a small tool called a scaler is used to scrape the plaque and tartar off your teeth and root surface above and below the gum line. Alternatively, an ultrasonic scaler may be used, which breaks up plaque with vibrations.1 The smooth surface this creates makes it easier for the gum tissue to reattach to the tooth root.2

Afterward, your dentist may prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash to help control the mouth bacteria that can cause gum disease. If you experience any discomfort afterward, non-aspirin over-the-counter pain medication may be used.3

If you have any questions about what your dental plan covers, talk with your dentist or visit and sign in to view your benefits information.



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