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Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing

Pacific Northwest Periodontics & Implant Dentistry specializes in the treatment of periodontal disease.

The methods for treating periodontal disease vary depending on how far the condition has progressed. Early stages of periodontitis are often treated with a non-surgical periodontal therapy called scaling and root planing. This deep cleaning procedure removes plaque and tartar deposits from below the gum line and down to the roots. Periodontal scaling and root planing is one of the most effective ways to treat gum disease before it becomes severe.

Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing. What is scaling and root planing?

Often referred to as a deep cleaning, scaling and root planing is the most common and conservative treatment method for periodontal disease.


Is the removal of calculus (commonly called tartar) and plaque from the tooth’s surface. This process targets the area below the gum line and along the root.

Root planing:

Is the removes any remaining calculus and smooth’s irregular areas of the root’s surface. If needed, local anesthetic may be used to numb your gums and roots, providing more comfort during the procedure.

Bacteria cause periodontal disease. Plaque and calculus provide an irregular surface that allows these bacteria to attach easily. Scaling and root planing are done to remove the plaque and calculus. For early stages of the disease, this treatment may be all that is needed to get the condition under control. This is especially effective with gingivitis. With more advanced gum disease, scaling and root planing may be the first step before surgery.

Will scaling and root planing cure periodontal disease?

In early stages of periodontitis, scaling and root planing may be all that is needed to get the condition under control. This form of treatment is especially effective with gingivitis. In cases of advanced gum disease, scaling and root planing is used as the first step before surgery. Treating periodontitis will decrease gum inflammation and soreness. It will also eliminate periodontal pockets which can trap plaque.

Occasionally scaling and root planing can be completed in one visit. This usually is possible if you have gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. However, if you have periodontitis, multiple visits will be needed to complete treatment. Typically, scaling and root planing will be completed one quarter or quadrant at time.

How does treatment work?

Scaling and root planing is performed using a combination of ultrasonic scalers and hand instruments.

  • Ultrasonic instruments are electric or air-powered and have two components: A relatively dull metal tip that vibrates at a very high frequency and "knocks" plaque and calculus off the tooth. A water irrigation system that cools the tip and helps to flush out debris from around the teeth.

  • Hand instruments are not powered: They have cutting edges that your hygienist will use to chip away plaque and calculus. Hand instruments come in various shapes and sizes. Different instruments are used for different teeth and different surfaces of the same tooth. Typically, ultrasonic instruments are used first to remove large deposits of plaque and calculus from the crowns and roots of the teeth. Then, hand instruments called scalers and curettes are used to remove any remaining material and ensure that the tooth’s surface is clean and smooth.

Click here for frequently asked questions on Scaling and Root Planing.

Pacific Northwest Periodontics Accreditations and Memberships

AAPLogo ActiveMember American Dental Association South King County Dental Society


Academy of General Dentistry Provider Washington State Dental Association Provider