Gum disease, often overlooked in discussions about oral health, poses a significant threat to your overall dental well-being. Its prevalence is concerning, with many individuals unaware of the potentially severe consequences it can bring if left unchecked.

In the battle against gum disease, one of the most effective and proactive treatments available is a dental procedure known as tooth scaling and root planing. This method is a comprehensive intervention targeting the root cause of gum disease.

If you have the symptoms of gum disease in Aliso Viejo, find a trusted and skilled dental care provider. At South Coast Dentistry, we have expertise in the latest dental procedures. We offer tooth scaling and root planing among their array of services.

What Are Tooth Scaling and Root Planing?

Tooth scaling and root planing are integral components of dental care, particularly aimed at combating periodontitis, an advanced and aggressive form of gum disease. These procedures go beyond the scope of regular dental cleaning, targeting areas that are typically susceptible to severe plaque buildup and infection. 

Tooth Scaling

Tooth scaling is the first crucial step in this deep cleaning process. It involves removing dental tartar (hardened plaque) from the tooth surfaces. Tartar forms when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, is left on the teeth and hardens over time. Plaque can be managed with regular brushing and flossing, but tartar is much harder and adheres strongly to the enamel, requiring professional removal.

During the scaling process, dental professionals use specialized tools to scrape off tartar. This is not limited to the visible parts of the teeth but extends below the gum line, reaching into the pockets between the gums and teeth where harmful bacteria often reside. This area is particularly vulnerable and, if neglected, can lead to the progression of gum disease, potentially resulting in tooth loss and other serious oral health issues.

Root Planing

Root planing follows the scaling process and is equally vital. This step involves smoothing the roots of the teeth to remove any remaining bacterial toxins and create a clean, flat surface.

By doing this, dental professionals help eliminate the rough areas where bacteria and plaque tend to accumulate. Furthermore, smoothing the root surfaces allows the gums to reattach more effectively to the teeth.

This reattachment is crucial to restoring the health of the gums and preventing further recession. When the gums recede due to periodontal disease, the roots of the teeth become exposed, leading to sensitivity and an increased risk of decay. By ensuring the roots are smooth and clean, root planing helps reduce these risks and aids in the healing process of the gum tissue.

Who Performs Tooth Scaling And Root Planing?

General Dentists

General dentists play a pivotal role in diagnosing and treating gum disease. They are trained to perform tooth scaling and root planing, particularly in the early stages of gum disease.

During routine check-ups, dentists can identify signs of gum disease, such as gingivitis or initial periodontitis, and can initiate the scaling and root planing process. They use a combination of manual and ultrasonic instruments to remove plaque and tartar buildup effectively.

For patients exhibiting early signs of gum issues, a dentist's intervention with these procedures can be a crucial step in preventing disease progression.


Periodontists are dental specialists focusing exclusively on the gums' health and the teeth' surrounding structures. They are the experts patients are referred to, particularly in more advanced cases of periodontitis.

Periodontists receive additional years of education and training beyond dental school, specifically focusing on diagnosing, preventing, and treating periodontal disease. Their expertise allows them to handle complex cases, manage patients with severe gum disease, and perform advanced periodontal procedures.

A periodontist's specialized care is essential when a patient's gum disease has progressed beyond the early stages or if there are complications such as severe gum recession or significant bone loss.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists play a significant role in many dental practices' tooth scaling and root planing procedures. Under a dentist's or periodontist's supervision, they carry out these treatments with high skill and attention to detail.

Dental hygienists are extensively trained in the theory and practical application of scaling and root planing techniques. They are proficient in using the various tools required for the procedure and are adept at making patients feel comfortable during the treatment. Their role is vital in maintaining the continuum of care and ensuring the effectiveness of the treatment.

Collaborative Care for Optimal Outcomes

Gum disease treatment often involves a collaborative approach among these professionals. A general dentist may initiate the treatment and then work with a periodontist for more advanced care. Dental hygienists support this process by providing thorough cleanings and patient education on maintaining oral hygiene post-procedure. This team approach ensures comprehensive care, addressing all aspects of the patient’s periodontal health.

Who Needs Tooth Scaling and Root Planing?

Tooth scaling and root planing are essential dental procedures targeting certain individuals.

  • Patients with Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease manifests through various symptoms, key indicators of the need for tooth scaling and root planing. These symptoms include:

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Swollen or tender gums.
  • Receding gum line.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • Individuals Diagnosed with Periodontitis

Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease that affects the gums and the supporting bone structure of the teeth. When you are clinically diagnosed with periodontitis, tooth scaling and root planing become critical to stop further damage. This treatment helps to remove the plaque and tartar buildup beneath the gum line, a primary cause of periodontitis.

  • Patients with Risk Factors for Gum Disease

Certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing gum disease due to various factors, including:

  • Smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop severe gum disease compared to non-smokers.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Family history of gum disease.
  • Poor oral hygiene.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a prevalent oral health condition that significantly impacts the gums, and it can have far-reaching consequences if not properly managed. This condition is not just a single disease but a series of progressive inflammatory responses and infections that affect the tissues and bones that support the teeth.

Causes of Gum Disease

Gum disease primarily results from the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. If plaque is not removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, exacerbating the problem. Gum disease generally progresses from gingivitis to the more severe form, periodontitis.

  • Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, characterized by inflammation of the gums. It is usually caused by the accumulation of plaque along the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis could result in periodontitis. However, gingivitis is reversible with proper dental care and oral hygiene.

  • Periodontitis

Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease. It involves the gums detaching from the teeth and forming infected pockets. The body's immune response, combined with bacterial toxins, disintegrates the bone and connective tissue supporting teeth. Without treatment, the bones, gums, and tissues supporting the teeth are destroyed, leading to tooth loss.

Risk Factors for Periodontitis

Several factors can increase the risk of developing periodontitis, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Age - Older adults have a higher incidence of periodontitis. The CDC reports that 70.1% of adults 65 years of age and older have periodontal disease.
  • Genetics.
  • Diabetes - People with diabetes are at a higher risk for infections, including gum disease.
  • Medications - Certain medications that reduce saliva flow can increase the risk of gum disease.
  • Other health conditions- Diseases like AIDS and its treatments can negatively affect the condition of the gums.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

Recognizing the signs of periodontal disease is crucial for early intervention. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums.
  • Bad breath.
  • Receding gums.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Painful chewing.
  • Sensitive teeth.

What Happens Before Tooth Scaling and Root Planing?

Several important preparatory steps are undertaken before tooth scaling and root planing procedures commence. These steps are critical to ensuring that the treatment is tailored to your needs and that any underlying issues are addressed.

  • Dental Examination and Diagnosis

The process begins with a thorough dental examination. During this evaluation, the dentist assesses the overall health of your teeth and gums. In many cases, patients may not experience pain from periodontal disease, making regular dental check-ups crucial for its early detection.

During these examinations, the dentist checks for signs of gum disease, including the depth of the gum pockets around the teeth.

X-rays are often a part of this initial examination. They help detect not just cavities and tooth infections but also the extent of bone loss around the teeth, a common complication of advanced gum disease. X-rays provide crucial information about the condition of the teeth and the underlying bone structure, guiding the treatment plan​​.

  • Discussion of Treatment Options

If periodontitis is diagnosed, the dentist or periodontist will discuss the appropriate treatment options with you. This discussion includes explaining the procedures of tooth scaling and root planing, what they entail, their importance, and how they can help in treating gum disease.

This pre-treatment phase also allows you to ask questions and express concerns about the procedure. The dental professional can provide insights into what to expect during and after the treatment, helping to ease any anxieties or uncertainties.

  • Scheduling the Procedure

The actual scaling and root planing treatment is scheduled for a future appointment. This allows you to prepare for the procedure, both mentally and in terms of your schedule. In some cases, depending on the severity of the gum disease, the treatment may be planned over multiple appointments. This approach allows for a more focused and thorough cleaning of each mouth section.

What To Expect From a Tooth Scaling And Root Planing Treatment

To ensure comfort, local anesthesia is usually administered before the procedure begins. This helps minimize any discomfort or pain during the treatment. Patients remain awake but with the treated area numbed.

The first step of the treatment, scaling, involves the removal of plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line.

Dental professionals use specialized tools for this purpose, including:

  1. Ultrasonic Scaling - An ultrasonic scaler, a device with a vibrating metal tip, is often used. It effectively breaks up and removes tartar, while a water spray associated with the tool helps wash away the debris and flush out plaque from the gum pockets.
  2. Hand Instruments - Besides ultrasonic tools, manual instruments like sickle scalers and curettes remove smaller pieces of tartar and ensure a thorough cleaning​​​​​​.

Root Planing

Following the scaling process, root planing is performed. This involves cleaning and smoothing the roots of the teeth. Doing so makes it more difficult for plaque and calculus to accumulate again, promoting healthier reattachment of the gums to the teeth.

During root planing, the dental professional may gently push back the gum tissue to better access and clean the root surfaces. The goal is to remove any remaining bacteria and smooth the root surfaces, which is crucial for gum health and reattachment​​.

Post-Procedure Care

After scaling and root planing, your dental professional might flush or rinse your mouth with an antibacterial solution. Sometimes, local antibiotics may be placed within the periodontal pockets to further reduce bacterial counts and aid in healing​​.

Patients are usually provided with specific instructions for post-procedure care. This may include recommendations on dietary adjustments, oral hygiene practices, and the use of special toothpaste to manage sensitivity.

Follow-up and Long-Term Care

Following the procedure, the gums will begin the healing process. This may include reduced inflammation and firmer reattachment of the gums to the teeth. Regular follow-up appointments are important. During these visits, the dentist will assess the healing process and check the depth of the gum pockets. This ongoing monitoring is crucial to ensure the long-term success of the treatment and to decide if additional care, such as periodontal surgery, is needed​​.

Benefits of Tooth Scaling and Root Planing

Tooth scaling and root planing offer numerous benefits, primarily to combat gum disease. These procedures effectively prevent the progression of gum disease, significantly reduce gum inflammation and bleeding, and lower the risk of tooth loss by treating the underlying causes of periodontitis.

Additionally, they improve gum health by reattaching gums to teeth, decreasing periodontal pocket depth, and helping to eliminate bad breath associated with gum disease. Overall, these treatments are essential for maintaining good oral health and hygiene.

Risks of tooth scaling and root planing

While tooth scaling and root planing are generally safe and effective, they carry some risks that are typically minor and manageable. Patients might experience increased tooth sensitivity following the treatment, particularly to hot and cold temperatures.

Some discomfort or soreness in the gums and minor bleeding during or after the procedure are common but usually temporary. There is a slight risk of infection, which can be managed with proper oral hygiene or antibiotics if necessary.

Additionally, the procedure may result in minor gum recession, exposing more of the tooth’s root, which can reduce tooth sensitivity over time. Despite these risks, the benefits of these procedures in treating periodontal disease are substantial, making them a crucial component of dental care for those affected by gum disease.

What Is Recovery Like After Tooth Scaling and Root Planing?

After undergoing tooth scaling and root planing, you can expect a period of recovery that is typically straightforward and manageable. The recovery process focuses on allowing the gums to heal and adapt to the changes following the deep cleaning.

Below is what patients generally experience and can expect during recovery:

  • It is common for patients to experience some mild discomfort or soreness in the treated areas and increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. This sensitivity is usually most pronounced in the first few days following the procedure.
  • The gums may be tender or slightly bleed, particularly during brushing, in the initial period post-treatment. This usually subsides as the gums heal.
  • You are advised to eat soft foods and avoid very hot or cold beverages and foods for a few days to minimize discomfort and sensitivity.

When to Call The Doctor

After tooth scaling and root planing, knowing when to seek further medical attention is crucial. While some discomfort and changes are normal during recovery, certain signs may indicate the need to contact your dental professional.

Below are scenarios when you should consider calling your dentist or periodontist:

  • If you experience severe or persistent pain that does not subside with over-the-counter pain relief or worsens over time.
  • If you notice excessive or prolonged bleeding.
  • If you experience signs of an infection, such as swelling, high fever, pus discharge, or increasing redness around the treated area.
  • If you notice any new looseness in your teeth or changes in how your teeth fit together when you bite.
  • If symptoms of gum disease, such as persistent bad breath, receding gums, or bleeding during brushing, return or worsen after the treatment.

Find an Experienced Aliso Viejo Dentist Near Me

Tooth scaling and root planing are essential procedures for those battling gum disease. They play a critical role in treating and preventing the progression of periodontal issues. If you are in Aliso Viejo seeking these vital dental services, choosing the right dental care provider is key to successful treatment.

At South Coast Dentistry, we are a prime choice for anyone needing scaling and root planing services. With a team of experienced and skilled dental professionals, we are well-equipped to provide comprehensive care tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, you can trust our team to provide compassionate, effective treatment that aims to improve your oral health and overall well-being. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 949-274-9086.