When Is Root Planing Necessary?

When Is Root Planing Necessary?

Nearly half of Americans suffer from some degree of gum disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. Also called periodontal diseases, gum disease can range from relatively mild disease, called gingivitis, to periodontitis, the advanced form of gum disease when tooth loss is most likely.

Gum disease can strike at any age, but it becomes a lot more common as we get older. In fact, the CDC says nearly three-quarters of adults aged 65 and up suffer from the disease.

Fortunately, gum disease can be successfully treated. The key is making sure you get the right treatment based on the severity of your symptoms. 

At American Dental ClinicEmmanuel Aguilar, DMD, uses root planing and scaling to treat moderate to advanced forms of gum disease in patients in San Diego, California, helping to prevent disease progression, deep infection, and tooth loss. Here’s how root planing works.

Gum disease 101

Gum disease begins when sticky plaque accumulates along the gum line. If plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it turns into hard deposits of tartar that need to be removed with professional cleaning.

Plaque and tartar contain bacteria, and as these bacteria multiply, they release toxins that irritate your gum tissue. As a result, your gum tissue pulls away from the tooth, creating pockets that allow the bacteria to migrate down the tooth surface. 

Over time, bacteria move downward, continuing the cycle of irritation and inflammation that lead to even deeper pockets. Eventually, the bacteria reach the tooth roots, causing an infection that weakens the tooth and leads to tooth loss.

Deep cleaning with root planing and scaling

The mildest form of gum disease — gingivitis — typically can be treated with a stepped-up oral hygiene regimen, including more frequent professional cleanings and, often, improvements in your brushing and flossing techniques. 

In gingivitis, plaque, tartar, and bacteria are located at or just below the gum line, and regular cleanings are very effective in eliminating these problems before gum disease has a chance to progress.

But for more advanced gum disease, regular professional cleanings — while still important — can get to the bacteria that have migrated well below the gum line, sometimes all the way to the root pocket. That’s when root planing and scaling can help.


Scaling is a technique that uses dental instruments to clean out tartar and bacteria that have accumulated below the gum line and in any pockets between the gums and the tooth surface. 

Combined with root planing, scaling is very effective in managing more advanced types of gum disease, along with chronic (recurrent) gum disease.

Root planing

Root planing is different from scaling in a couple of key ways. First, root planing typically involves the structure of the tooth below the gums and extending down to the very tip of the root. 

The goal of root planing is to “smooth out” any rough patches on the surface of the tooth root. These rough patches make it a lot easier for bacteria to grip the root surface. During root planing, Dr. Aguilar uses special tools to eliminate these rough areas, along with the bacteria and toxins they contain.

While root planing is performed as a therapy for existing gum disease, smoothing out the root surface can also reduce your risk of future deep infections by making it harder for bacteria to successfully colonize the tissue.

After your treatment

Because scaling and root planing reach below the gums, most patients benefit from a local anesthetic to keep them comfortable. After treatment, you can expect some soreness for a few days. 

salt water rinse combined with gentle bruising techniques during this time help keep the area clean while minimizing swelling and preventing irritation. You’ll also need to avoid hard or chewy foods for 2-3 days to give the area time to heal.

Once your teeth are clean from top to bottom, you’ll want to maintain regular dental checkups and cleanings to keep gum disease at bay. Initially, Dr. Aguilar typically recommends more frequent cleanings to keep an eye on your gums and prevent symptoms from returning.

Enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles

Deep dental cleaning using scaling and root planing is considered the “gold standard” for treating advanced gum disease. To learn more about gum disease treatment and whether root planing and scaling are appropriate for you, book an appointment online or over the phone with American Dental Clinic today.

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