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Periodontal Scaling & Root Planing

The objective of scaling & root planing is to remove etiologic agents which cause inflammation to the gingival (gum) tissue and surrounding bone.  Common etiologic agents removed by this conventional periodontal therapy include dental plaque and tartar (calculus).

These non-surgical procedures work very effectively for individuals suffering from gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) and mild/moderate periodontal disease.

Reasons for scaling and root planing

Here are some reasons why these dental procedures may be necessary:

  • Disease prevention – The oral bacteria which cause periodontal infections can travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body.  Research has shown that lung infections and heart disease have been linked to periodontal bacteria.  Scaling and root planing remove bacteria and  help prevent the bacteria from traveling to other parts of the body.
  • Tooth protection – When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, there is a greater risk of periodontal disease.  As pockets deepen, they tend to house more colonies of  bacteria.  Eventually, a chronic inflammatory response by the body begins to destroy gingival and bone tissue which may lead to tooth loss.  Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the developed world.
  • Aesthetic effects – Scaling and root planing help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gumline.  As an added bonus, if superficial stains are present on the teeth, they will be removed in the process of the scaling and root planing procedure.
  • Better breath – One of the most common signs of periodontal disease is halitosis (bad breath).  Food particles and bacteria can cause a persistent bad odor in the oral cavity which is alleviated with cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing.

What do scaling and root planing treatments involve?

Scaling and root planing treatments are only performed after a thorough examination of the mouth.  Your dentist will take X-rays, conduct visual examinations and make a diagnosis before recommending or beginning these procedures.

Depending on the current condition of the gums, the amount of calculus (tartar) present, the depth of the pockets and the progression of the periodontitis, local anesthetic may be used.

Scaling – This procedure is usually performed with special dental instruments and may include an ultrasonic scaling tool.  The scaling tool removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the tooth.

Root Planing – This procedure is a specific treatment which serves to remove plaque and tartar that has accumulated on the root surfaces below the gumline.  The root of the tooth is literally smoothed in order to promote good healing. Having clean, smooth root surfaces helps prevent bacteria from easily colonizing in future.  It is generally performed under local anesthetic.

Following these deep cleaning procedures, the gum pockets may be treated with antibiotics.  This will soothe irritation and help the gum tissues to heal quickly.

During the next appointment, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly examine the gums again to see how well the pockets have healed.  The goal is to arrest the progression of gum disease.

If you have any concerns or questions about scaling and root planing, or periodontal disease, please ask Dr. Ko.


Dr. John H. Ko is proud to bring his patients leading-edge dentistry. Dr. Ko and his entire team are dedicated to providing you with excellent, personalized care and service to make your visits as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Dr. Ko is dedicated to excellence in general, family & cosmetic dentistry, offering quality and gentle dental care in a stress free environment for adults, teens, and children in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville, Castro Valley and the surrounding Alameda County communities.

Our beautiful office is conveniently located at 5720 Stoneridge Mall Road, Suite 200, Pleasanton, CA 94588.

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