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Scaling and Root Planing
Dr. Christina Chang, DDS - San Francisco


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Common Questions about Scaling and Root Planing

What does scaling and root planing mean?

Scaling and root planing is one of the initial steps in the treatment of gum disease. Another term for it is deep cleaning. We use an ultrasonic scaler to clean the tooth and its root beneath the gum tissue, not just above the gum line like with a standard cleaning.

Scaling and root planing is used when a patient has developed gum disease, attracting bacteria that can destroy gum tissue. Scaling and planing cleans out the debris from under the gum line, making sure the roots are nice and smooth, which keeps bacteria from reattaching and prevents deposits from getting lodged into the gum.

How is scaling and root planing done?

To begin, Dr. Chang gives local anesthesia to make the procedure more comfortable for the patient. She then uses an electrical scaler to clean between the gum and the tooth. The scaler is ultrasonic, meaning vibrates at a high frequency to remove hard deposits under the gumline.

Do I need scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing is for patients with serious gum disease. When deep pockets of debris and bacteria develop below the gum line, they can’t be reached with standard flossing and brushing. Once those deep pockets are formed, they attract specialized bacteria that can cause a more serious infection. If your gums are swollen or inflamed, or if it has been a long period of time since you had a cleaning or check-up, Dr. Chang will work with you to determine if you’re in need of scaling and root planing.

Why is scaling and root planing important?

Scaling and root planing directly battles gum disease, which can directly and indirectly affect the health of your entire body. Bacteria in the gums can travel through your bloodstream and into the rest of your body, so people with serious gum disease have a higher likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Dr. Chang can work with you to determine if scaling and root planing is the best option for long-term health.

How much does scaling and root planing cost?

The treatment typically ranges from $600 to $1600, depending on your insurance coverage. Many plans cover scaling and root planing, so you can wind up paying as little as a few hundred dollars.

What can I eat after scaling and root planing?

Because scaling and root planing is a deep clean, it can take the gum a little time to recover. It’s possible you’ll feel sore for a couple of days following the procedure. Recovery time is much faster than a gum surgery, however, which scaling and root planing is designed to prevent. Dr. Chang can offer advice on medication to help relieve any discomfort following the procedure.

What are the risks of scaling and root planing?

For patients with anxiety about scaling and root planing, this website provides links to educational videos that will help you better understand the process. Scaling and root planing is minimally-invasive procedure without much risk. The treatment is focused on the problem area, and after the problem bacteria is removed patients’ tend to heal and recover well.

What does scaling and root planing feel like?

If the condition is severe, a patient might experience discomfort during and after the procedure. Less severe cases tend to heal more rapidly. Dr. Chang can provide a variety of numbing techniques to relieve discomfort before and after the procedure. She also offers a specialized numbing gel designed specifically for deep cleaning. The gel is applied directly, numbing the teeth and the gums, so no injection is required. It’s a great alternative for patients with a needle phobia.

What is the effectiveness of scaling and root planing?

Just like any healing process, it depends on the patient’s immune system. We see great results on younger patients, and patients who demonstrate good home care.

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