What is Dental Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling is a procedure in which a professional removes the unwanted debris and bacteria from the teeth. Thereafter, root planing helps in smoothening the root surfaces so that bacteria don’t accumulate. It is also called deep cleaning.

Getting your teeth cleaned from a dentist or hygienist is a routine dental procedure. Dental scaling, however, is a more in-depth and thorough cleaning of the teeth and the area of their attachment with the gums.


When do you need scaling and root planing?

Our gums fit snuggly around the neck of the teeth and form a tight attachment. But, over time this attachment becomes loose. People are unable to maintain the natural health of the gums, and the plaque begins to accumulate between the gums and the teeth.

The plaque gets calcified to form calculus, which is a hard yellowish material on the tooth. This calculus penetrates below the gingiva and forms deep pockets between the tooth and the gums. This calculus cannot be removed by tooth brushing, no matter how hard you try.

Bacteria and food debris seep inside, and then you begin to show symptoms of periodontal disease. You will feel tenderness in your gums while brushing, and there may be bleeding or pus discharge.

Halitosis is a common complaint of patients with periodontitis. Your gums become swollen and inflamed.

If this condition is left untreated, it will progress to a chronic stage. The result of this is that you will slowly have severely receded gums and bone loss. Consequentially, the teeth will become loose in their socket without bone support.

Scaling is a procedure where the hygienist removes all this unwanted material from the pockets of the gums. A clean environment stimulates re-attachment of the gums to the teeth.

Sub-gingival scaling removes all the debris under the gums and makes sure there are no remnants. (1)

Root planing is a procedure where the dentist smoothens the surfaces of the tooth for better attachment of the gingiva. The other significant benefit of root planing is that bacteria will not harbor on the smooth tooth surfaces.

Patients with diabetes, cancer therapy and those receiving radiation are candidates that need thorough scaling and root planing. These people are more susceptible to infections and microbial attacks. (2)


Scaling is carried out with special ultrasonic scalers. Rarely, hand instruments are used. (3) Depending on the stage of periodontal disease, your doctor may need one or multiple sittings for the procedure.

If you are under medication for diabetes or hypertension, it is essential to inform your dentist of the same. Your dentist will not perform scaling if your blood sugar is not under control. Similarly, your blood pressure should be within the normal range for this procedure. These medical precautions are necessary because patients have a chance of bleeding during this procedure.

You must also keep your dentist in the loop if you have had any major surgical procedure in the recent past. The doctor should even know about any other medicines that you take on a daily basis, like thyroid.

To reduce patient discomfort, the dentist can perform this procedure under local anesthesia, though it is unlikely that you will have much pain.

Scaling involves thoroughly cleaning all the surfaces of all teeth, and the interdental margins. The focus area is the part where the gums meet the tooth. The hygienist removes all the plaque, bacteria and debris from beneath the tooth and from within the pockets.

Root planing is a procedure done after scaling. As the name suggests, the dentist will make the roots of the teeth smooth and plane them out.

This smoothening will improve the attachment of the gums to the teeth. Smooth surfaces also discourage bacteria and plaque from collecting over them. (4)


Right after the procedure, you may have sensitivity in your teeth or a weird tingling sensation for a few days. This is normal because the teeth have been made entirely free of all debris and plaque.

Once the root planing is over, the dentist will keep you under observation for a few weeks. In this time, you should follow all the oral hygiene instructions given to you.

Over time, the clinician looks for reduction in the pocket depth and assesses the attachment of the gums to the teeth. If this is satisfactory, you are put on maintenance therapy. This means you must continue practicing good oral hygiene and follow up with the dentist.

In severe cases, scaling and root planing may improve the health of your gums, but not to the desired extent. If the pockets persist or if you are non-compliant towards maintaining oral hygiene your periodontist will have to treat your gums surgically. (5)


Measures to prevent gum diseases

  • Keep your mouth clean at all times. Brush twice daily, floss regularly and use an alcohol-free mouthwash in consultation with your dentist. Remember, no dental treatment can substitute for brushing.
  • Avoid using toothpicks deep inside your gums, or putting any foreign objects like hairpins or safety pins in between your teeth. These are likely to infect your gingiva with more bacteria.
  • Watch out for symptoms of gum disease like bleeding, foul smell, and loose teeth.
  • Smoking is a harmful habit which deteriorates the health of your gums. Quit smoking and chewing tobacco to improve your overall health.
  • Maintain a habit of eating well-balanced meals. Drink enough water to prevent dry mouth and reduce the intake of sugar.
  • Make it a habit to get your teeth cleaned professionally every six months. This will prevent accumulation of plaque over long periods of time, and you will not develop gingivitis.

Over to you

Scaling and root planing is a crucial procedure to further the effects of cleaning your teeth. Deep cleaning rids you of harmful bacteria and the foul smell that comes from them.

It also improves the overall health of your gums, which in turn enhance your oral health to give you a fresh smelling mouth, and a beautiful smile.


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