Gum disease is one of the most common dental health problems in adults, and it may not produce any obvious symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. When gums show signs of inflammation (gingivitis) or disease (periodontitis), patients need periodontal therapy.
Periodontal therapy involves cleaning below the gum line to remove bacteria and tartar. With early treatment, the effects of gingivitis can be reversed. Periodontitis is irreversible, but its progression can be slowed or stopped, with periodontal therapy.
Signs of Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Gingivitis may cause redness, bleeding gums, inflammation, soreness, or bad breath. Periodontitis may cause all of those symptoms, along with loose teeth, a bite irregularity, and receding gums. Untreated, periodontitis may result in tooth loss and jawbone loss.
Scaling and Planing
The edge of the gum that you see when you look in the mirror is not where the gum attaches to your teeth. Between that visible edge and the gum’s attachment point is a space called a sulcus, and these spaces can harbor bacteria and tartar. Scaling is the process of removing tartar that has accumulated below the gumline.
Gum disease causes gums to recede – the sulcus expands and becomes a periodontal pocket. As gum disease progresses, the tooth’s root may detach from the gum tissue. Planing is the process of smoothing the tooth root and stimulating reattachment to gum tissue.
What to Expect
Patients do experience discomfort during scaling and planing, which is why we typically recommend performing these procedures over the course of a few appointments, focusing on small sections of gum tissue each time. If discomfort is extreme, we may be able to administer a mild sedative.
After this procedure, gums will be tender for a few days, and we may prescribe a mouth rinse to promote healing. We’ll reexamine gums on a follow-up visit to determine whether the scaling and planing was effective at rejuvenating gum tissue, or if additional periodontal therapy is necessary.