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What Is Scaling and Root Planing

Many people visit the dentist for the first time in a long while and are told they need a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing. This treatment typically brings up a lot of questions.

Why is it Called a Deep Cleaning?

The official dental term for deep cleaning is scaling and root planing. This is the term you might see on your checkout paperwork or any dental insurance forms. Dentists call it a deep cleaning because the procedure involves the removal of bacterial deposits from underneath the gums.

Deep cleaning should not be confused with routine teeth cleaning. Deep cleaning is a dental procedure designed to treat gum disease. Routine teeth cleaning is a procedure designed to prevent it.

This difference is noticeable when you see the categories of the two procedure codes for your dental insurance. Deep cleaning is under the category for the treatment of periodontal disease. Routine tooth cleaning is under the preventive dentistry category.

How is a Scaling and Root Planing Different from Routine Teeth Cleaning?

There are several differences between these two procedures.

  • Scaling and Root Planing removes bacterial buildup from the diseased gum tissue. Routine cleaning removes bacterial buildup from the healthy gum tissue.
  • Scaling and Root Planing usually involves two separate dental appointments and treats only one side of the mouth at a time. A routine cleaning takes only one visit.
  • Scaling and Root Planing usually involves the use of local anesthetic to keep you comfortable while the dental hygienist cleans underneath your gums. Your mouth will be numb to prevent any pain or discomfort. A routine teeth cleaning does not require any numbing.
  • Scaling and Root Planing can involve the use of some additional devices or tools. The two most common additions are the implanting of a tiny antibiotic chip underneath the gumline and the use of a dental laser to sterilize your gums and promote quicker healing.

Can I Just Get a Routine Teeth Cleaning Instead?

No. If your dentist diagnoses the need for deep cleaning, a routine teeth cleaning treatment will not provide you with bacteria-free clean teeth. The goal of all teeth cleaning treatments, both deep and regular, is to leave a mouth with zero bacterial deposits.

What Happens After I’ve Had my Deep Cleaning

You will have a “clean slate” after the scaling and root planing procedure. Consider this a new beginning for your teeth and gums. Now your job is to maintain your “clean slate”.

Home Habits:

Clean your teeth at home by following the below oral hygiene instructions:

  • Brush your teeth for at least two minutes after eating breakfast and before going to bed.
  • Floss your teeth every night before going to bed. Ask your dentist or to show you the proper teeth flossing technique for your specific needs.
  • Use a mouth rinse every time you brush your teeth. More often tha not patients receive a prescription mouthwash to use after scaling and root planing. Don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after using the mouthwash.

Dental Visit Frequency:

After a scaling and root planing, most patients need to have follow-up cleanings every three months. This frequency varies, though. Through excellent home oral care, some patients only need to visit the dentist every six months.