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The initial stage of treatment for periodontal disease is usually a thorough cleaning that may include scaling or root planing. The objective of these non-surgical procedures is to remove etiologic agents such as dental plaque and tartar, or calculus, which cause gingival inflammation and disease. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or a preventative measure. They are commonly preformed on cases of gingivitis and moderate to severe periodontal disease.
The periodontist or hygienist will only perform scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of the mouth, which may include taking X-rays and visually examining the mouth. Depending on the condition of the gums, the amount of tartar present, the depth of the pockets, and the progression of periodontitis, the periodontist may recommend scaling and root planing. In some cases, a local anesthesia may be used during the procedure.
Antibiotics or irrigation with anti-microbials (chemical agents or mouth rinses) may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins and cause periodontitis. In some cases, the periodontist may place antibiotic fibers in the periodontal pockets after scaling and planing. This may be done to control infection and to encourage normal healing.
When deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult for the periodontist or hygienist to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. Consequently, surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health.
IIf treatment is successful, scaling and planing may have many periodontal benefits. One is that it can help prevent disease. Research has proven that bacteria from periodontal infections can travel through the blood stream and affect other areas of the body, sometimes causing heart and respiratory diseases. Scaling and root planing removes bacteria that causes these conditions.
Another benefit of treatment is protecting teeth against tooth loss. When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, the risk for periodontal disease increases. As pockets deepen, more bacteria is able to colonize, eventually causing a chronic inflammatory response by the body to destroy gingival and bone tissue. This leads to tooth loss.
Finally, scaling and root planing may make the mouth more aesthetically pleasing, and should reduce bad breath caused from food particles and bacteria in the oral cavity. Superficial stains on the teeth will be removed during scaling and planing, adding an extra bonus to the procedures.