Bacteria causes periodontal disease. In early stages, called gingivitis, bacteria surrounds the gums. They can become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is treated by having the hygienist scale and polish the teeth. With proper home care and regular recall appointments, this treatment may be all that is needed to get the condition under control.
With more advanced periodontitis, plaque and tartar accumulate underneath the gum line and stock to areas that are rough. A treatment called scaling and root planing is required to clean deeper into the infected pockets.
Scaling and root planing is a more in-depth cleaning. This cleaning removes deposits or tartar from under the gum line. It smooths irregular areas of the root surface.
This procedure is done with the combination of an ultrasonic scaler and hand instruments. An ultrasonic scaler vibrates a metal tip at a high frequency to remove plaque and tartar. It uses water to cool the tip and flush out any debris. Hand instruments are used following this. The pocket areas are then “flushed” out using an antimicrobial rinse.
Scaling and root planing can be completed with or without anesthesia, depending on the depth of the pockets or for patient comfort. Appointments are usually broken down into one or two quadrants of the mouth per appointment. This allows for adequate healing time and reduces the length of appointments.
Generally following completion of scaling and root planing, patients will be put on a 3-4 month periodontal maintenance program.