Scaling and root planing is a minimally-invasive treatment for gum disease, and it’s usually our first line of defense because it’s so effective in reversing the disease in its early stages. While hearing the words “minimally-invasive treatment” may initially have you sighing in relief, as your appointment approaches, you might start to wonder: does scaling and root planing hurt? Below, we answer this question and help you understand exactly what you can expect during your scaling and root planing appointment.
Understanding Gum Disease
Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis) occurs in stages. First, patients experience gingivitis, which is a precursor to gum disease that produces swollen, red gums. This progresses to the early stages of gum disease, in which the gums are still inflamed, but they may also be painful and bleed easily. When we perform scaling and root planing during these stages of gum disease, we’re often able to not only treat the disease, but reverse it and fully restore your oral health.
As gum disease progresses, it causes more serious oral health issues, including gum recession, bad breath, discharge, deep periodontal pockets (areas where the gum pulls away from the root), loose teeth, and even tooth loss. Scaling and root planing still treats gum disease in these later stages, but it often needs to be paired with other periodontal or restorative dental treatments to repair the damage it has caused.
What Happens During Scaling and Root Planing
Gum disease is triggered by bacteria that’s harbored in the plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth above and just below the gumline. Treating gum disease means removing this buildup and making it more difficult for new plaque and tartar deposits to form beneath the gumline.
To accomplish this, we use scaling and root planing. Scaling is a little bit like your regular dental cleaning, but instead of only cleaning the visible portion of your teeth, we clean below the gumline as well. Depending on your needs, we may be able to perform your entire treatment in a single appointment, two appointments, or one quadrant at a time.
After the scaling is complete, the roots of your tooth are planed. This simply means that we use an instrument to create a smooth surface, which encourages your gums to reattach securely, eliminating the area below the gumline where plaque and tartar collects and causes disease.
So, getting back to the subject of this post: does scaling and root planing hurt? The short answer is that the treatment itself does not hurt—we use local anesthetic to numb your gums before we start any work. Like any dental procedure, you may feel uncomfortable from having to hold your mouth open for so long or from having someone working in your mouth, but you will not feel any pain from the scaling and root planing. Once you leave our office and the local anesthetic begins to wear off, you’ll experience some tenderness and perhaps even some tooth sensitivity. This is usually mild and can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.
With a periodontal maintenance program that includes regular dental cleanings, you can expect a lasting remission from your gum disease symptoms after scaling and root planing.