Scaling or root planing, also known as “deep cleaning”, is usually the initial stage in the treatment for periodontal disease (periodontitis). The objective of root planing is to remove dental plaque, toxins and tartar (calcified bacterial plaque) that cause gingival inflammation and lead to bone loss around the teeth. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or to lower the levels of inflammation in preparation for surgical treatment.

What does scaling and root planing entail?

Dr. Ronderos will determine the need for root planing after evaluation of your periodontal (gum) condition. This evaluation may include taking x-rays (if not available from your dentist) and taking measurements around your teeth. Depending on the condition of the gums, depth of the pockets, bone levels, the amount of tartar present, and the progression of periodontitis we will determine the extent of the scaling and root planing. In most cases, local anesthesia will be used during the procedure.

  • Scaling:  When scaling is performed, calculus and plaque attached to the tooth surface is removed. The process especially targets the area below the gumline, along the root.
  • Root Planing:  Root planing is performed to remove the surface layer of the root (i.e., cementum) that is embedded with microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is smoothed to promote healing.

illustration of root planing

Scaling and root planing is generally performed with an ultrasonic scaler followed by the use of hand instruments. In selected cases, we may deliver antibiotics directly into the pocket. A sustained release method is used to maintain adequate levels of the antibiotic in the affected site for the days following the procedure.

When very deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is impossible for patients to thoroughly the remove plaque on a daily basis. Consequently, periodontal surgery may be recommended to control the infection, and to reduce the pockets creating more favorable conditions for the long-term maintenance of the teeth.

Many patients will not require any further periodontal treatment, other than maintenance care, after scaling and root planing. It is extremely important for all patients who have had root planing to follow a strict periodontal maintenance program.


Postoperative Instructions

These instructions are designed to help you minimize discomfort and encourage proper healing following your scaling and root planing.


It is not unusual to have mild discomfort after the anesthetic wears off. Try to prevent pain; do not wait until you have pain to take your pain medication. You may consider taking ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) after the completion of the procedure before the anesthetic wears off. The discomfort generally subsides within two days.


Avoid eating solids and hot foods until the effect of the anesthetic wears off, as you might unknowingly bite or burn yourself. Chew on the opposite side of the treated area and avoid hard foods, popcorn or foods with small seeds for 2-3 days following the procedure.


Slight bleeding may occur after the procedure. Rinse with salt-water (1/2 teaspoon salt + 8 ounces warm water) 2-3 times a day to help make your mouth more comfortable. This should be continued for 2- 3 days after the procedure.

Oral Hygiene

Consistent and thorough home care is the most important factor in healing and eventually maintaining your periodontal condition. Bacterial plaque is the main cause of periodontal (gum) disease and excellent plaque control is key for a successful outcome.

Very gently brush and floss the treated area for the first day. Resume normal hygiene the day after the procedure.

You may experience some tooth sensitivity following the procedure, especially when eating cold foods. The sensitivity usually decreases within 4-6 weeks and can be minimized by keeping the area free of plaque and daily use of a desensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne®.  Please contact our office if the cold sensitivity is not improving after four weeks; we can prescribe a toothpaste to reduce your sensitivity.

Smoking will significantly reduce the success of the treatment.

Contact Us

Should you have any questions or concerns during regular office hours, please do not hesitate to contact us at (650) 595-5083.