What is Root Scaling and Root Planing?

When you come in to see us for a regular cleaning and exam at Gentle Dental offices in Edison, our talented hygienists do some “scaling” on your teeth to remove plaque and tartar all the way down to the gumline and across the entire surface of each tooth. This keeps your teeth and gums healthy.

But if your home hygiene hasn’t been quite up to snuff, or if you haven’t kept up your twice-yearly exams and cleanings, plaque and tartar could have started to work their way up under your gums. This is the beginning of gum disease. At this point, the plaque and tartar are probably just irritating your gums, but the issue needs to be addressed to keep things from spiraling downward toward full-blown periodontitis.

Our Gentle Dental dentists will now need to do a little work under the gumline. This is called root scaling and root planing.

When does a patient need root scaling and planing?

Root scaling and planing are non-surgical procedures whose job is to address and cause periodontal disease to retreat. Healthy gum tissue fits tightly around each tooth. The accepted measurement from the top of the gumline to where the gum attaches to the tooth should only be from one to three millimeters in depth. The problem comes when plaque and tartar accumulate around and under the gums, below the gumline. This is the start of periodontal disease and deeper pockets will form around the teeth. These harbor even more bacteria, worsening the situation. The depth of these pockets can now be four millimeters or more. Root scaling and planing is the first option to treat the advancing gum disease.

How root scaling and planing are done

The goal is to get the gums to heal and reattach themselves firmly to the teeth, as they did when they were healthy. Drs. Strober, Messer, and Butcofski begin with scaling. This is done below the gumline on the roots of the teeth. All plaque, bacterial toxins, and tartar deposits are scraped off. Next, root planing is done to smooth all the rough areas on the surfaces of your roots. When these surfaces are smooth, bacteria, plaque, and tartar don’t adhere to the root surface, allowing your gums to heal.


After a period of time, you’ll be asked to return so that we can ascertain the effectiveness of our efforts addressing your periodontal disease. We look for gums that were red and swollen to have become firm and pink again. Bleeding should be reduced, and the pockets that were growing should have shrunk back down. If these signs all point to good progress, you may not need any additional periodontal work, but if the conditions have become more severe, a periodontist may be needed to intervene to halt the progression of bone loss.

Obviously, the way to avoid all of this is to practice good home dental care, and to keep your twice-yearly exams and cleanings with the team at Gentle Dental. Call us to make your next appointment, (732) 549-5660.

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