Are Your Gums Inflamed? You May Need Scaling And Root Planing

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If your gums are receding, bleeding easily when you floss, or are becoming swollen, you may have gingivitis. Gingivitis is a gum inflammation that is caused by plaque and tartar buildup. It's also the precursor to the more serious periodontitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can not only infect your gums, but your jawbone as well. If you have the signs of gingivitis, read on.

Get Your Gum Pockets Measured

When gums are inflamed, they tend to pull away from your teeth and create pockets. At your next dental cleaning, be sure the hygienist measures your gum pockets with a periodontal probe. In a healthy individual, these pockets are usually 1 to 3 mm in depth. Pockets that are 4 mm and deeper can indicate disease and may warrant a scaling and root planing.

What Is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing (SRP), or deep dental cleaning, is a procedure in which tooth roots and gum pockets are cleaned of bacteria and plaque. Pieces of cementum — the part of your tooth that attaches to the alveolar bone — may be removed if it is infected.

During SRP, your dentist will use two main hand instruments: a periodontal scaler and a periodontal curette. A scaler has a narrow tip so that your dentist can clean your enamel and in the spaces between your teeth. A curette has a cutting edge and a blunt edge. The curette is to clean bacteria in gum pockets and below the gum line.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Some dentists and dental hygienists can do SRP in their office, but other dentists may refer you to a periodontist. This procedure can take a couple of appointments so that the dentist is sure that your gums are thoroughly cleaned.

After hearing about the hand instruments that are used, some patients are worried about pain. SRP should not be painful. Before the procedure begins, your dentist will numb your tooth roots and gums with a local anesthetic. After the procedure is done, you may be numb and your gum tissue may be a little sore.

Once the anesthesia has kicked in, your dentist will remove dental plaque with the scaler. Some dentists use ultrasonic devices to loosen plaque before using a manual instrument. Your dentist will then use the curette to clean out gum pockets. Besides cleaning out the gum line, the curette helps the dentist smooth out tooth roots. This smoothing action will help your gum tissues eventually reattach tightly to the teeth so that the pocket depth decreases.

Contact a dentist like those represented at for more information on scaling and root planing.