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Scaling and root planing are really two separate and distinct procedures, so they should be considered on their own merits.
Scaling is the physical removal of hardened surface deposits (variously called "accretions", or "tartar", or "calculus") on the parts of the teeth that protrude beyond the gum line. The intent of scaling is to provide a smooth and clean surface that is more easily maintained in a clean condition by the patient's home care oral hygiene regimen. Because tartar cannot be removed by the use of a toothbrush
or dental floss
, it is necessary for a dentist
to remove this foreign matter to facilitate the patient's oral hygiene efforts and augement its beneficial effect, which is to reduce the risk of tooth decay
(gum) disease. In essence, the intent of scaling is preventive, or prophylactic.
Root planing is in principle similar to scaling, but its definition distinguishes it in three ways:
- Root planing entails the removal of accretions below the gum line rather than above the gum line.
- Root planing, by definition, only qualifies as root planing if it is implemented in the presence of inflammatory periodontal disease.
- The use of root planing implies the presence of deep pockets under the gum line, which are manifestations of periodontal disease.
The intent of root planing, in contrast with the "preventive" nature of scaling, is therapeutic
-- that is to say that root planing is specifically intended to treat periodontal disease rather than prevent it. By inference, any patient who is receiving root planing must be assumed to have been diagnosed with gum disease.
The removal of tartar under the gum line is essential in the management of periodontal disease, but depending on the nature and severity of the disease, it may or may not constitute full treatment. All periodontal disease patients will typically undergo root planing as part of their preliminary periodontal treatment, and the degree to which the inflammation resolves will often determine whether additional forms of periodontal therapy will be necessary. As with most other therapeutic measures, the effectiveness of root planing varies, and is often dependent on the patient's intrinsic physiology, as well as other treatments that may accompany this procedure-- including the patient's compliance with a well-implemented oral hygiene program.
Any discomfort during a root planing procedure may be managed by local anesthetic, if deemed necessary. Postoperative discomfort is rare.
Although some dentists may employ techniques that include irrigation of the gums with an antiseptic solution, this would complement a root planing session rather than substitute for it.
If there is any question as to the guidance provided by your dentist, I would advise you to obtain a second opinion from a periodontist
(gum specialist), whose training and experience is most targeted to the content of your question. You can find contact information for a periodontist near you by consulting the online directory of the American Academy of Periodontology
Hope this helps...