Gum disease is a common dental complication among individuals in the United States. The condition occurs when bacteria build up under your gums, causing an infection. The infection can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, forming large sockets that are difficult to clean in your regular dental hygiene routine. In the early stages of gum disease, you could experience bleeding, pain, and swelling of the gums.

The first step in treating gum disease is dental planning and root scaling. This procedure allows for deep cleaning of plaque and tartar from beneath the gums. You may be a good candidate for scaling and root planing if your gum disease has not damaged the structures below the gum line, but your gum pockets are unreachable with a toothbrush.

Depending on the extent of your condition, scaling and root planing may take more than one dental appointment. Your dentist will remove the tartar, smooth your teeth, and clean your gums, allowing them to reattach. This prevents further progression of gum disease and protects you from other dental complications. At Washington Dental, we focus on offering top-notch dental services for all our patients dealing with gum disease in Lomita, CA.

Understanding Scaling and Root Planing

Root planing and scaling is a dental procedure to remove plaque and tartar from under your gums. Often, this procedure is the first line of treatment for individuals dealing with gum disease. Gum disease can develop even in people who follow a strict dental hygiene routine. The condition develops when tartar and plaque build on your gums, causing gum infection.

Gum disease progresses when left untreated and can damage the bone and other components below the gum line. In the advanced stage of gum disease, bacteria and plaque form under your gum line, causing your teeth to separate from the gums. This creates deep gum pockets that may be challenging to clean with an ordinary toothbrush. You may be at increased risk of gum disease under the following circumstances:

  • Age. Studies have shown that individuals over 65 are at a higher risk of gum disease. Therefore, if you fall into this category, you must go for regular dental checkups to help identify early signs of the condition.
  • Tobacco use. Tobacco and its products are linked to many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and lung disease. Tobacco users also have a high risk of developing oral health complications like periodontal disease.
  • Genetics. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to gum disease. If someone in your family has battled with the condition, you must be vigilant in caring for your oral health.
  • Teeth grinding. Clenching or grinding your teeth exerts excessive force on your teeth and supporting tissues. This could speed up the progression of gum disease.
  • Medication. Some drugs, like oral contraceptives and antidepressants, can impact your oral health, making you susceptible to gum disease and other dental complications.
  • Illnesses. Diseases like HIV and cancer weaken your immunity and increase your susceptibility to gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes. Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause make your gums more sensitive and make it easier to develop gingivitis.

Although gum disease is a serious condition that can have a devastating impact on your oral health, it is reversible. You will need to thoroughly clean your gums before the condition progresses. Your dentist will recommend scaling and root planing if you exhibit the following symptoms of gum disease:

  • Bleeding gums. When bacteria from plaque and tartar cause an infection in your gums, you may experience bleeding when you brush around your gums.
  • Redness and swelling of the gums. Your dentist may recommend undergoing scaling and root planing if you have puffy and swollen gums.
  • Persistent bad breath. You will experience bad breath when the gum infection goes deeper into your gums, where you cannot clean the plaque out using a toothbrush. In this case, the bad breath will persist even when you brush and rinse your mouth. Deep cleaning of your gum through scaling can be used for tartar accumulation.
  • Receding gums. Gum recession is a process where the margin of gum tissues moves away from your teeth. This exposes more of your teeth. When your gums recede, pockets will form around your teeth, making it easier for more bacteria to enter your tooth root. When gum recession is untreated, the bacteria can damage your bones and cause your teeth to fall off.
  • Teeth are loosening and shifting. Gum disease can cause the loosening of your teeth. This is because the bacteria that cause gum disease can weaken the teeth. If you have loosening teeth, your dentist can recommend that you undergo scaling and root planing.

Root Planing and Scaling Procedure

Scaling and root planing is a procedure performed by a periodontist to reverse the impact of gum disease. The procedure for this type of gum disease treatment takes the following steps:

  • Dental exam. Before you undergo scaling and root planing, your dentist will evaluate your gums and teeth to determine the extent of damage caused by gum disease. Additionally, the dentist will evaluate the level of tartar and plaque buildup. Sometimes, an X-ray is needed to show your gum line clearly.
  • Application of anesthesia. A light anesthesia informed by a topical cream may be applied to your gums to numb the area. This prevents pain and discomfort from the procedure.
  • Scaling. The dentist will use a vibrating metal tool to remove tartar chips above the gum line from your teeth. A water spray may also flush out the tartar from the gum pockets. A manual or electric scaler may be used, depending on the extent of tartar buildup.
  • Root planing. The dentist gently pushes your gums aside to expose the tooth and clean out the tartar and plaque from the root surface. If you have a severe infection in the gums, the dentist could inject antibiotics directly into the gums to eliminate the infection and help avoid the recurrence of gum disease.

After removing tartar and plaque, your tooth surface will be polished. Bacteria cannot stick to a clean, smooth surface. Therefore, your receded gums will attach more quickly after the procedure.

Scaling and Root Planing Post-Procedure Instructions

Scaling and root planing can reverse gum disease by removing bacteria and tartar from under the gums to promote the reattachment of receded gums. After the procedure, your dentist will give you the following aftercare instructions that you must follow to speed up healing and prevent complications:

Pain Management

Your dentist will administer local anesthesia to prevent pain and discomfort during your scaling and root planing procedure. You could experience some pain in your gums after the anesthesia from the procedure wears off. Your dentist will recommend anti-inflammatory medication and pain relievers to address the pain and ease inflammation from the procedure.


After your scaling and root planing procedure, you can eat when your anesthesia wears off. Your lips and mouth may be numb after the procedure. Therefore, you can wait until it wears off before eating. The amount of time needed for the anesthesia to wear off depends on the extent of the procedure and the amount of anesthesia administered.

You should avoid hot foods that could burn the treated gums and slow healing. You should stick to soft foods until your mouth has healed.

Care for the Procedure Site

After root planing and scaling, your dentist will recommend that you rinse your mouth with salt water. This relaxes your gums and avoids discomfort. Since you cannot brush your teeth immediately after the procedure, the salt water rinse can help dislodge food particles from your gums.

Avoid Tobacco Use

Smoking and tobacco use harm your overall health and can cause severe dental complications. Smoking after root planing can burn your gums and weaken your immunity, which delays healing. Therefore, your dentist could recommend that you refrain from tobacco until your gums have recovered.

Proper Oral Hygiene

Gum disease causes inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of our gums. Therefore, root planing and scaling will be more invasive than ordinary tooth cleaning. Even when all the tartar and plaque have been scrapped off your teeth and gums, you must continue with your oral hygiene routine to avoid a recurrence of the condition.

You should wait a few days to go back to brushing and flossing your teeth. Your dentist will recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush and water floss to clean your teeth. This will help avoid gum irritation and further discomfort.

Make Regular Dental Visits

Your dental visits do not end when your root planing and scaling procedures end. Most people who neglect routine dental checkups will only notice the signs of gum disease once it is too late, and their teeth cannot be saved. In addition to making follow-up appointments after your deep cleaning procedure, you should visit your dentist at least two times a year.

During these routine dental checkups, your dentist will assess your oral health and identify the onset of gum disease and other dental complications. Early treatment or management of these complications will protect your oral health.

Benefits of Scaling and Root Planing

Tooth scaling and root planing are common for individuals suffering from gum disease. Your dentist will recommend this procedure when you experience bleeding gums, inflammation, or gum recession. Some of the benefits of undergoing the procedure include:

Fresher Breath

Gum disease is an infection of the gums. Bad breath is a common symptom of the condition and can impact your self-esteem and interaction with others. Scaling and root planing remove the tartar from your gums and clean out the bacteria. You can have a fresher breath without active infection in your mouth.

Prevents the Progression of Gum Disease

Gum disease is a progressive condition. This means that when left untreated, it can progress and cause more damage to your teeth, gums, and jawbone. In later stages, gum disease may be irreversible. Mostly, your dentist recommends root planing and scaling when the condition has not started to damage your teeth.

Scaling removes the bacteria from the gums, stopping the infection. Early treatment of the condition through this procedure will help you prevent gum recession, jawbone deterioration, and tooth loss.

Better Oral Health

When gum disease is left untreated, it can cause severe oral health complications. Some of these complications could include tooth loss, jawbone damage, shifting of teeth, and bite problems. Deep cleaning done through scaling and root planing will help you maintain healthier gums.

Prevents Chronic Health Complications

As gum disease progresses, the bacteria could enter your bloodstream and cause more severe health issues like heart disease and respiratory conditions. The deep cleaning of your teeth will protect your oral health and you from the life-threatening conditions that could result from gum disease.

Eases Pain and Discomfort

The pain and discomfort from gum disease can be crippling. Toothache and pain in your gums can prevent you from chewing food correctly and performing your routine activities. Root planing and scaling help relieve the pain associated with periodontal disease. After complete gum healing from the procedure, you can chew your food and brush your teeth without pain.

Attractive Smile

Infection of the gums can cause staining of your teeth, which changes the natural tooth color. Additionally, some effects of gum disease, like gum recession and shifting of your teeth, can distort your smile. You will have bite issues when your teeth move from their original position.

Tooth scaling will remove the stains from your teeth and reverse the infection. This protects you from further tooth damage. When your gums heal and reattach to their original position, it restores your smile.

Risks Associated with Scaling and Root Planing Procedures

Root planing and tooth scaling offer numerous benefits for patients suffering from periodontitis. In addition to reversing the condition and minimizing the pain of gum disease, the procedure helps restore your smile and protects your overall health from bacterial infection.

However, like other dental procedures, root panning and scaling are not guaranteed to solve your problem. Additionally, the procedure may be associated with some risks. Learning about the risks of scaling and root planning is important since you can weigh your options and make an informed decision about undergoing the procedure. Common complications arising from the procedure include:

  • Ineffective treatment. Most people expect relief from their symptoms and gum disease reversal after the scaling procedure. Unfortunately, the procedure does not work for all patients. Your dentist will determine the effectiveness of the treatment in your case at a follow-up appointment. If you still experience symptoms like pain, bad breath, and worsening gum recession, you may need to explore alternative treatments like flap surgery.
  • Reaction to anesthesia and medications. Since root planing and scaling is an invasive teeth-cleaning technique, your periodontist will use local anesthesia to ease pain and discomfort. You could be allergic to anesthesia or medications administered before the procedure. A skin rash, swelling, and itchiness characterize an allergic reaction. You must inform your dentist about your allergies before starting the procedure.
  • Tooth sensitivity. Scaling and root planning involve cleaning the deep part of your gums. This could expose the root to outside conditions and interfere with the nerves. Therefore, you can experience extreme tooth sensitivity to cold, hot, and sweet foods. Although the sensitivity is expected to resolve within forty-eight hours of the treatment, some people could experience the symptoms when brushing or flossing. Your dentist will recommend that you use desensitizing toothpaste after root planing and scaling.
  • Toothache. Unfortunately, there are times when toothache worsens even after deep cleaning of the gums. Your dentist will recommend that you use pain relievers to ease the pain. You may need immediate dental care if your pain does not resolve within a few days. Continued toothache and jaw pain after tooth scaling and root planing may be an indicator that gum disease has not healed.
  • Post-procedure infection. While your dentist will exercise reasonable caution by sterilizing all their tools before the procedure, some patients often develop infections in the gums after the scaling procedure. This could be a result of bacteria introduced during the procedure. Some of the symptoms of post-procedure infection that you need to look out for include fever and pus oozing from the gums.
  • Bleeding. Most patients experience mild bleeding after a scaling procedure. However, the bleeding should stop within two or three days after the procedure. You must contact your dentist for emergency care if the bleeding persists.
  • Jaw discomfort. Some patients experience jaw discomfort and earaches after a scaling and root planing procedure. Over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate the discomfort. However, discomfort that continues for a week or more after your procedure must be addressed by an expert.

You can reduce the risk of complications from the procedure by following all the care instructions from your dentist after the procedure.

Gum Disease Treatment Alternatives

After a scaling and root planing procedure, you must schedule a follow-up appointment with your dentist. During the follow-up visit, your dentist can assess the procedure's success. Whether or not your gum disease has responded to the treatment depends on how well the symptoms resolve. If the gum pockets have not reduced or you still experience the symptoms of gum disease, periodontal surgery may be necessary. Common surgical treatments for gum disease include:

Flap Surgery

This is a type of gum treatment surgery that involves the reduction of gum pockets. A periodontist will use this procedure when the gum disease is severe, or root planing and scaling are ineffective. Reduction of the gum pockets prevents plaque and bacteria accumulation. Flap surgery could be done traditionally or by using a laser.

Unlike root planing and scaling, where the gums are left to reattach without assistance, this type of surgery reduces the gum pockets, allowing your gums to reattach easily.

Bone grafting

If your gum disease has progressed to later stages where your jaw bone is damaged, you may need a bone graft. A bone graft adds volume and density to your jaws. This makes it strong enough to support dental implants. Compared to scaling and root planing, a bone graft is more invasive. Material to make the bone graft is removed from other parts of your body.

Soft Tissue Grafting

Gum disease damages your gum tissues. Your periodontist will recommend a tissue graft to replace the damaged tissue. You may be a good candidate for a tissue graft if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Exposed tooth root. Infection from gum disease causes your gums to recede, exposing other parts of your teeth to damage. A soft tissue graft helps restore the health of the damaged gum and cover up the tooth root.
  • Swollen gums. Gum swelling is a common symptom of gum disease. Your gums will swell due to the infection. Your periodontist will recommend undergoing a soft tissue graft to repair the gum tissue.
  • Loose teeth. As your gums move away from your teeth due to periodontitis, your teeth will be exposed to more bacteria that can damage the tooth structure and cause them to loosen.

Find a Reliable Dentist Near Me

When left untreated, gum disease can cause severe complications, including tooth loss and damage to the jawbone. There are several forms of treatment for gum disease, and your doctor will recommend an option that suits the extent of your condition.

Dental scaling and root planing is a procedure commonly used to remove a buildup of tartar and plaque from below the gums. Your dentist will recommend this procedure when you show signs of advanced gum disease. The main goal of this procedure is to restore the health of your gums, reverse gum disease, and prevent further progression of the condition.

You may need anesthesia since scaling and root planing are more invasive than regular teeth cleaning. However, the recovery takes a few days, and you can continue with your oral hygiene routine. Understanding what the root planing and scaling procedure entails, its benefits, and its risks is essential to ensuring you know what to expect.

You will benefit from the expert dental services we offer at Washington Dental for an effective and successful procedure. We serve patients seeking general dentistry services in Lomita, CA. Call us today at 310-326-5183 to book your appointment.