Cleaning vs Scaling & Root Planing: What Do I Need and Why?

June 5, 2017 / Sergio Rauchwerger

If you haven’t been in the dental chair for a while or if you’ve struggled with your oral health and/or certain other health conditions, you may be told you need to have a special kind of deep cleaning done, called scaling and root planing. Hopefully, your dentist and hygienist will go over their findings with you, so you can learn about your condition and manage it better. However, you can also use this page as a basic guide to learn more about scaling and root planing, what it means, and how it will impact your oral health going forward.


Why Can’t I have a Regular Cleaning?


Perhaps the first question people ask is, “Why can’t I just get a regular cleaning?” The diagnostic name for a regular cleaning is “prophylaxis” or “prophy” for short. It gets its name because it’s preventative in nature. It helps keep you disease-free.


Prophylaxis Definition: Removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures. It is intended to control local irritational factors. (Taken from the ADA)


How is Scaling and Root Planing Different?


Scaling Definition: Removal of plaque, calculus, and stain from teeth.

Root Planing Definition: A definitive treatment procedure designed to remove cementum and/or dentin that is rough, may be permeated by calculus, or contaminated with toxins or microorganisms.

In basic terms, scaling and root planing is done when periodontal disease is already present. It involves cleaning and smoothing the tooth structure below the gumline, o that bacteria is less likely to attach and thrive afterward. This gives your gums a chance to spring back to health, provided you have the right follow-up treatments and take good care of your teeth and gums at home.


What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?

The symptoms of gum disease worsen, depending on how advanced your condition is.

In the early stages, it’s generally just referred to as gingivitis. It starts off with symptoms like bleeding gums when you brush or floss, irritation/ red gums, receding gums, and bad breath.

It progresses into periodontal disease. This has all the same symptoms as basic gingivitis, but you will also start to get some pocketing between your teeth and gums, and those pockets tend to develop localized infections because they collect bacteria easily. If it’s allowed to progress beyond this, bone loss begins to occur as a result of the infections and teeth become loose or may even fall out. Clearly, it’s better to begin treating periodontal disease early, before it hits this stage, and performing scaling and root planing is highly effective.


What Happens After Scaling and Root Planing?

Most people respond very well to scaling and root planing. Between this a good home care, you may see improvement rapidly. If not, additional treatments may need to be done to help your gums heal. It’s also worth noting that, after scaling and root planing is done, you will still have some degree of periodontal disease. Your dentist and hygienist will need to perform cleanings more often and will need to measure your pocketing regularly to determine if your symptoms are remaining stable, reducing, or getting worse. Because these types of cleanings are more involved than a prophylaxis and aren’t simply preventative, as you’re still treating periodontal disease, the cleanings are called periodontal maintenance.


Periodontal Maintenance Definition: Therapy for preserving the state of health of the periodontium.


Restore Your Oral Health Today

No matter how long it has been since you’ve been in the dental chair, the most important thing is that you take that first step toward getting your health back. Whether you’ve struggled with finances, dental anxiety, or other issues have kept you from getting the care you need, we can help. As always check with your insurance company to see what your eligibility is for every dental procedure.

Email us or call 561-798-7807 to schedule an appointment today.



Cleaning vs Scaling & Root Planing: What Do I Need and Why? - Smile Designs LLC - Wellington Florida