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Scaling & Root Planing

Plaque that remains on teeth eventually hardens into tartar, which is virtually impossible to remove with brushing and flossing alone. Scaling is the deep-cleaning procedure Dr. Westmoreland or the hygienist here at Westmoreland Family Dentistry uses to remove tartar from your teeth at and below the gumline.

What is scaling?

It is important to remove tartar because tartar makes teeth even more susceptible to tooth decay. Tartar also causes gingivitis and gum disease. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. Gum disease or periodontitis is bone loss of the jaw bone around the teeth. Scaling is the process of removing tartar from the teeth with dental instruments and/or the use of an ultrasonic device that aids in the process.

What’s the difference between cleaning and scaling?

Regular cleaning removes the sticky plaque above the gumline, while scaling removes the hardened plaque, or tartar, at and below the gumline.

What can I expect from a scaling and planing procedure?

Dr. Westmoreland may use an ultrasonic device to assist in this process, but most likely, he or a hygienist will also use metal dental instruments to remove the tartar off teeth under the gumline. To make you as comfortable as possible, we will first make sure that your gums have been sufficiently numbed with anesthetics. The scaling is usually followed by a process called planing, which smoothes any roughness from the surface of the tooth. After scaling and planing, teeth are more resistant to plaque, and gums can return to their normal pink, healthy state. But, proper dental hygiene is important to keep the teeth and gums healthy; otherwise, the tartar and gingivitis are likely to return.

Why would I need scaling?

Scaling may be needed if Dr. Westmoreland or a hygienist observed tartar on your teeth and/or the condition of your gums is unhealthy during the exam or the cleaning. If you have bleeding gums or other signs of gum inflammation or gingivitis, the most likely cause is tartar buildup at and below the gumline. Once the scaling and planing are finished, your gums will heal in against smooth teeth in an area that has been cleaned of bacteria, plaque, and tartar. If the scaling is not done, the gingivitis could worsen into serious gum disease called periodontitis, and the tartar will contribute to tooth decay.

What are the benefits of scaling?

Removal of tartar, or calculus, will reduce tooth decay. Scaling can also reverse gingivitis before it becomes a more serious form of gum disease. The benefits of scaling, however, only last as long as the calculus remains off the teeth. Some patients will need periodic scaling if they are prone to tartar buildup, or they don’t practice proper oral hygiene.