Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling removes calculus (tartar) and plaque from the tooth, especially below the gum line along the root surface. Ultrasonic scalers use high-frequency vibration to blast away hard calculus and are sometimes used first to remove the larger chunks. Then, special hand-held instruments called scalers and curettes are used to do fine scaling.
Because plaque is more likely to stick to rough surfaces, the root surface is also smoothed down in a process called root planing. This gets rid of any remaining calculus or contaminated cementum on the root and buffs out any scratches that might have been caused during scaling.
If you have gingivitis or periodontitis that is localized to one part of your mouth, scaling and root planing can be done in one visit. However, if you have a more generalized form of periodontitis throughout your mouth, your periodontist will typically do a quarter of the mouth (a quadrant) at one time. This means that four visits will complete the scaling and root planning processes.
For some patients, scaling and root planing can cause discomfort. Therefore, a local anesthetic is used to numb the portion of the mouth being worked on. For two to three days after the treatment, you may have some soreness and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. Over-the-counter pain relievers can relieve this discomfort.
Watch this video about plaque and calculus.