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A Closer Look at Teeth Scaling

What to expect when your gums need a "deep cleaning".

Good oral hygiene means taking care of both your teeth and gums-the soft tissue surrounding your teeth. Your gums can actually tell your dentist a lot about what's going on inside your mouth. Healthy gums should appear pink and firm. If yours are red, swollen or inflamed, it could mean you have gum disease.

In the U.S., over three-quarters of adults over age 35 have gum disease. Most have a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis, which is caused by a buildup of plaque along your gum line. The good news is that if you catch gingivitis early, you can reverse it and prevent more serious conditions.

If routine at-home dental care-brushing twice a day, flossing every day-isn't enough, your dentist might recommend teeth scaling. Often the first step in treating gum disease, teeth scaling is a very common non-surgical procedure to "deep clean" above and below your gums. Your dentist may also recommend teeth scaling if you have signs of chronic periodontal disease or receding gums.

The procedure is actually made up of two different treatments. First, light anesthesia is often used to numb the specific area of your mouth. Using either a handheld instrument or an ultrasonic device, your dentist will scrape away any plaque and tartar on your teeth, both above and below the gum line. This is scaling. After the tartar and plaque have been removed, your dentist will smooth out the rough surfaces on the root of your teeth. This is known as root planing. This can help your gums reattach to your teeth.

Depending on your condition and amount of plaque and tartar, scaling and planing could take multiple visits. Following the procedure, you might experience some pain and sensitivity in your gums for up to a week.

And keep in mind: because scaling and planing go deep inside your gums, it could allow harmful bacteria to enter your bloodstream. To help with the healing process and prevent infection, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic mouthwash or rinse.

While teeth scaling may cause you some temporary pain and discomfort, the benefits can make a lasting impact. Removing any plaque, tartar and/or bacteria from your gums can help successfully control gingivitis and chronic gum disease. Along with regular dental cleanings and gum care, it can help ensure a healthy mouth.

Wondering how much teeth scaling and root planing might cost? You can use our Dental Care Pricing Tool to find estimated costs for treatments in your area.