Scaling and Root Planing (Procedure, Effects, Costs & FAQs) (2023)

What is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning of the gum tissues. It’s a common non-surgical treatment for gum disease that removes accumulated tartar or calculus (hard, calcified plaque) above and below the gumline. It can help stop gum disease (periodontal disease) from progressing.

Scaling simply removes built-up calculus, while root planing smooths the tooth roots. It helps the gums reattach to the teeth, thereby reducing gingival pocket depth.

Why is Scaling and Root Planing Important?

Harmful oral bacteria produce plaque, a sticky, clear film covering teeth. Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, but poor diet and oral hygiene allow it to remain and build up over time.

Eventually, plaque hardens and becomes calculus. The accumulation of dental calculus is a major factor in tooth decay and gum disease. It can provide an easy place for bacteria and other oral microbes to settle and cause infections in your teeth and gums.

Scaling and root planing removes calculus from the teeth. It also smooths the rough surfaces of tooth roots so the gums can reattach. This makes it easier to practice good oral hygiene and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.

Who Needs Scaling and Root Planing?

Your dentist will likely recommend a deep cleaning if you show signs of gum disease. These include:

  • Visible buildup of tartar over your teeth and gums (may be white, yellow, and/or brown)
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Recessed gums that expose your tooth roots, making your teeth appear longer
  • Persistent bad breath

In more advanced gum disease, teeth may feel loose. This is due to attachment loss, in which your teeth lose the connective tissue that holds their roots in place.

Deep Gum Pockets

Another sign of more advanced gum disease is increased space between your teeth and gums. These spaces are referred to as periodontal pockets. People with gum disease have deeper periodontal pockets than people with healthy gums.

(Video) Scaling and Root Planing

These deeper pockets indicate the need for a deep cleaning, in which your dentist will clean these spaces to allow your gum tissue to heal. For severe periodontal disease, scaling and root planing may be considered the first step in a more extensive course of treatment.

What Happens During Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing are two separate procedures that are done together to treat gum disease:

  • Periodontal scaling is the removal of built-up tartar from your teeth and gums
  • Root planing treats your tooth root surfaces to achieve a smooth finish, which makes it less likely for plaque and calculus to reaccumulate

The entire deep cleaning process will involve the following:

  1. Your dental professional, either a dentist or hygienist, will administer local anesthesia to prevent discomfort
  2. Your dental professional will perform scaling and root planing, using special dental instruments to remove tartar above and below your gumline
  3. After scaling and root planing, your dental professional may flush or irrigate your mouth with an antibacterial solution (such as chlorhexidine) to further cleanse the area
  4. Finally, your dental professional may place local antibiotics within the periodontal pockets

The entire cleaning may take place in multiple sessions, one for each half or quarter of your mouth. One reason is that your dentist wants to ensure you’re adequately numbed.

Numbing your entire mouth for one session could cause trouble eating, swallowing, and talking. In addition, completing a full mouth scaling and root planing can result in significant discomfort afterward.

Another reason deep cleaning requires multiple appointments is because ample time is needed to ensure all areas of gum disease, including tartar and plaque removal, are treated. A lighter cleaning may not take as long but won’t be as effective.1

Types of Dental Scaling Tools

Dentists use special tools for scaling and root planing. Periodontal treatment instruments, including the sickle scalers and periodontal curettes, are used for hand instrumentation.

Ultrasonic instruments utilize sonic vibrations of water to remove tartar and make the cleaning easier and more efficient.

(Video) Scaling & Root Planing - Dental Minute with Steven T. Cutbirth, DDS

What to Expect After the Procedure

While deep cleaning may require multiple appointments, recovery shouldn’t be too intense. You may notice the following during the first few hours or days after treatment:

  • Mild pain in the area that was cleaned
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Gums that bleed easily during toothbrushing

Your dentist will give you recovery instructions. Take it easy on your teeth and gums by:

  • Avoiding foods that require a lot of chewing
  • Avoiding very hot or cold food and drinks
  • Using a desensitizing toothpaste

Long-term, you’ll need good oral hygiene to maintain the benefits of deep cleaning.

A deep cleaning may require several sessions and may be part of a larger treatment plan. With that in mind, follow your dentist’s instructions and keep your follow-up appointments.

Benefits and Risks of Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing can help treat gum disease and improve oral health. It also has some potential downsides, most of which are temporary.


Benefits of scaling and root planing may include:

  • Reduced gum pocket depth
  • Lower risk of advanced gum disease (also known as periodontitis)
  • Lower risk of tooth decay
  • Elimination of bad breath


For the first few days following the procedure, you may experience pain, sensitivity, and gum bleeding while brushing. These should go away quickly.

However, there are two other risks to scaling and root planing.

(Video) how much do you know about dental scaling?

One is that bacteria may be introduced into your gums and bloodstream, causing an infection. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help prevent this if you have certain medical conditions.

The other risk is that root planing may remove more of the surface of your tooth roots (cementum) than necessary.2, 3

How Effective is Scaling and Root Planing for Gum Disease?

One review looked at routine periodontal scaling and polishing (not including root planing) and found that it had little efficacy in preventing gingivitis.4

However, thorough scaling and root planing is a careful, challenging, and meticulous procedure.1 It’s more in-depth than a routine cleaning.

Scaling and root planing has been shown to be effective at reducing gum pocket depth, which is an important indicator of gum disease.5

The effectiveness of scaling and root planing will partly depend on the quality of your oral hygiene after the procedure is complete. Brushing, flossing, and maintaining a balanced diet will help prevent plaque and tartar from building up again.

Gum disease is also linked to systemic conditions, such as diabetes, which can play a role in determining the best treatment plan. A deep cleaning may only be part of a larger treatment plan for severe gum disease.

Other Treatments for Gum Disease

Advanced gum disease may require more than deep cleaning. Surgery may be needed to restore gum health and prevent tooth loss.

(Video) Does Dental Scaling/Cleaning Affects your teeth? It's facts are explained by Dr.Punitha Ramachandran

There are also alternative methods of deep cleaning to avoid unnecessary damage to your tooth roots. For example, full-mouth debridement with an ultrasonic scaler may be able to remove tartar below the gumline without removing an excessive amount of root tissue.6

Talk to your dentist or periodontist about what your options are. They may prefer certain treatments over others based on your oral health needs.


Scaling and root planing is a common non-surgical treatment for gum disease. It’s also referred to as deep cleaning.

Periodontal scaling removes tartar from your teeth and gums, while root planing smooths the surface of your tooth roots.

Your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing if you show signs of gum disease. However, it may be the first part of a more extensive treatment plan.


How long does it take for scaling and root planing to heal? ›

After scaling and root planing is completed, you may experience slight discomfort around the teeth for several days and increased sensitivity to hot and cold (and sometimes sweets) for up to four to six weeks duration. This is a normal course of healing.

What not to do after scaling teeth? ›

Avoid alcoholic drinks and hot or spicy foods until your gums are healed. Do not use any tobacco products for at least 72 hours after the procedure because tobacco slows healing. Brush the treated area very lightly the first night.

How long does it take for gums to heal after root planing? ›

You may notice some sensitivity to hot and cold (and sometimes sweets) for up to six weeks duration. This is a normal course of healing. You should begin to notice a definite improvement in sensitivity within two weeks.

How long does planing and scaling take? ›

The entire treatment lasts about one or two hours, eliminating your gum infection with minimal inconvenience. If your case is severe and the infection is widespread, the procedure may take longer or require multiple appointments.

How painful is root scaling and planing? ›

The short answer is no, the procedure is not painful. You will experience discomfort upon completion but the actual process can be completed with the administration of a local anesthetic to the soft tissue to minimize any unpleasant feelings during the process.

How can I maintain my teeth after scaling? ›

Caring for Your Mouth after Scaling and Root Planing Helps Preserve Your Dental Health
  1. Brushing Gently. After the scaling treatment, you may experience sensitivity and some bleeding, which is quite natural. ...
  2. Wax Coated Floss Serves You Better. ...
  3. Saltwater Helps to Soothe Gums. ...
  4. Limit Snacking. ...
  5. Do Not Neglect Dental Appointments.
1 Feb 2021

What should I do after root planing? ›

5 Expert Tips to Care for Your Teeth after Root Scaling or...
  1. Brush Gently. Moderate. ...
  2. Use Wax-Coated Floss. The teeth should be flossed at least twice per day using a wax-coated floss. ...
  3. Soothe the Gums with Warm Salt Water. ...
  4. Limit Snacks. ...
  5. Stay on Track with Dental Appointments.

What can I expect from root planing? ›

Your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse or antibiotics to prevent infection and help you heal. Scaling and root planing typically leave gums painful for a few days and the teeth sensitive for up to a week. Your gums may bleed and feel swollen or tender right after the treatment.

What should you not eat after scaling? ›

Avoid sticky, hard (such as ice cubes, nuts, popcorn, chips), brittle, spicy, highly seasoned, or acidic foods in your diet. Foods such as soups, pasta, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese etc. are best. Be sure to maintain adequate nutrition and drink plenty of fluids.

Do you need antibiotics after deep cleaning? ›

The goal of a deep cleaning is to remove the plaque and tartar that has collected below the gums. At the end of the deep cleaning, a localized antibiotic may be placed in the deep pockets. The antibiotics fight the bacteria that is causing the gum disease.

Can I go to work after deep teeth cleaning? ›

Will You Need To Take Time Off After A Root Planing And Scaling Procedure? There should be no down time required, though the numbing feeling will last for a few hours after the procedure is completed, but you could return to work and can drive as you normally do.

Is Deep Cleaning painful? ›

Deep teeth cleaning can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be painful. You dentist will give you a local anesthetic, either in the form of a gel or an injection, so you shouldn't feel any pain during the procedure.

What are disadvantages of scaling teeth? ›

Teeth scaling and root planing can cause some discomfort, so you'll receive a topical or local anesthetic to numb your gums. You can expect some sensitivity after your treatment. Your gums might swell, and you might have minor bleeding, too.

How long after scaling can I eat? ›

To receive the most out of this treatment, you will need to wait 30 minutes after your dental cleaning to eat or drink. By waiting 30 minutes, the fluoride treatment has enough time to seal around your teeth.

How can I maintain my teeth after deep cleaning? ›

Saltwater rinsing 4-6 times a day.

After the first 48 hours, you'll be advised to rinse your mouth with saltwater at least 4 to 6 hours a day to ensure your mouth remains clean and free from bacteria.

Is scaling and root planing really necessary? ›

If the pockets between your gums and teeth are too deep, however, scaling and root planing may be needed. A July 2015 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association finds that scaling and root planing is beneficial to patients with chronic periodontitis (gum disease that has advanced past gingivitis).

How do I prepare scaling and root planing? ›

How to Prepare. The good news is that there is nothing you need to do to prepare for this procedure! Even if a local anesthetic is necessary to keep you comfortable, you just need to show up for your appointment ready to get rid of the infection in your mouth.

Do gums reattach after scaling? ›

While any gum loss experienced due to gum disease will not grow back, the majority of patients can expect their gums to reattach after undergoing a deep cleaning. This is because all of the harmful bacteria has been removed, allowing the gums to once again be healthy.

Can you get an infection after scaling and root planing? ›

Root planing and scaling can allow harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The tissue of the gums can also be at risk for infection. Your dentist may ask you to take antibiotics before and after surgery if you have a condition places you at high risk for a severe infection or if an infection could be dangerous.

What should we do after scaling? ›

You should resume normal oral care procedures after your teeth scaling and root planing. This includes brushing your teeth at least two times a day and flossing regularly. You should also eat a healthy, balanced diet and see your dentist for regular cleanings to prevent the condition from returning.

How many units of scaling is normal? ›

Most people, on average, require 2-4 units of scaling, some people require considerably more. If you request, the Hygienist will inform you of your specific scaling needs and the cost associated before they get started. When calling your insurance company you may not have to provide an exact procedure code for scaling.

How long do gums take to heal after deep cleaning? ›

By removing the infection and tartar, the dentist smoothens the roots, allowing your gums to heal around the teeth. Your gums will heal in approximately 5 days, which will lead to significant tightening.

How long does it take to heal from deep cleaning? ›

On average, it takes anywhere from 5 to 7 days for the gums to heal after a deep cleaning. While your mouth is healing, you may experience some bleeding and swelling of the gums. Teeth are likely to be sensitive, as their roots have recently been exposed.

How long will my teeth be sensitive after deep cleaning? ›

During a deep clean, your dentist will remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline. After deep cleaning, your gums may feel tender and your teeth may feel sensitive for up to a week.

What should you not eat after scaling? ›

Avoid sticky, hard (such as ice cubes, nuts, popcorn, chips), brittle, spicy, highly seasoned, or acidic foods in your diet. Foods such as soups, pasta, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese etc. are best. Be sure to maintain adequate nutrition and drink plenty of fluids.

Are deep cleanings painful? ›

Deep teeth cleaning can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be painful. You dentist will give you a local anesthetic, either in the form of a gel or an injection, so you shouldn't feel any pain during the procedure.

Can you get sick after a deep teeth cleaning? ›

Flu-like symptoms are not very common following a teeth cleaning, but they can still happen. The most common symptoms that are noticed following a teeth cleaning are: Nausea: This may be a result of having anesthetics. Nausea may also result from feelings of anxiety or nervousness over your dental visit.

Is Deep teeth cleaning worth it? ›

If your visit to the dentist reveals significant pockets- those 4mm or greater, then you are at risk for (or in the stages of), periodontal disease. This makes you a candidate for the therapy (a deep teeth cleaning) and it is highly recommended if you want to stop and prevent the progression of the disease.

Is there any side effects of scaling? ›

Teeth scaling and root planing can cause some discomfort, so you'll receive a topical or local anesthetic to numb your gums. You can expect some sensitivity after your treatment. Your gums might swell, and you might have minor bleeding, too.

Why do dentists push deep cleaning? ›

If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, and suffer from bone loss, inflammation, and/or tartar has accumulated beneath the gumline, then the hygienist will need to clean 'deeper' below the gumline, and this is often known as a dental deep cleaning.

How do dentists prepare for deep cleaning? ›

Clean the mouth before the appointment: Brushing teeth and disinfecting the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash helps reduce the risk of infection. Bacteria is transferred into the patient's blood during the procedure, so keeping bacteria populations in the mouth to a minimum lowers the risk of infection.

Can I drink water after deep cleaning? ›

But you might be curious about what you should be doing after the cleaning is complete. We recommend you avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 30 – 60 minutes after your cleaning. The timing should be enough to ensure your teeth can recover from the procedure and keep from feeling sensitive.

Is there an alternative to deep cleaning teeth? ›

Thankfully there is an alternative to traditional deep cleaning. That alternative is laser dentistry.

What to drink after deep teeth cleaning? ›

Also, be sure you stay hydrated. You should avoid sugary drinks, as it can be harsh on your newly cleaned teeth. Water is the best choice, as it will not stain your teeth and hydrates you the best out of any liquids you could be drinking.

Can I drink coffee after scaling? ›

For the following 24 hours After Treatment you must: Avoid any dark staining drinks like Tea, Coffee, Red Wine, colored soft or alcoholic drinks and fruit juice. Avoid all dark staining foods like bolognese, soy sauce, red meat, chocolate and all fruit except bananas.

How long after scaling can I eat? ›

That's right, your teeth soak in the fluoride to strengthen your teeth. It's in our water and in toothpaste for this reason. This is where the question of how long to wait after getting a teeth cleaning comes in. If your dentist administers fluoride during the checkup, you should wait 30 minutes before eating.


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