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Subgingival Scaling

Subgingival Scaling: Cleaning the tooth below the gumline.

The hallmarks of a good oral hygiene regimen include brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash to eliminate plaque and germs. Plaque is a colorless substance that continually forms on the hard surfaces of your mouth. If left unremoved, plaque quickly becomes a breeding ground for germs which excrete toxins as they go about their life cycle. Plaque can quickly harden into a dark brown or yellow porous substance called tartar or calculus, which is much more difficult to remove and can make your smile look dingy, dull, or uncared for.

Regular clinical cleanings are usually sufficient to take care of plaque and tartar buildup, but sometimes they, like your oral hygiene routine, may not be enough by themselves. Plaque and bacteria don’t stop at the gum line, but infiltrate down to the roots of your teeth below and above the gums. If left unchecked, these invaders can lead to cavities, infections, and periodontal disease requiring more aggressive surgical measures to correct. Small procedures now help prevent larger ones and their associated problems and risks in the future, and this is why subgingival scaling and root planing are such an important part of the cleaning process when needed.

Subgingival scaling is the process of removing plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth. This may be referred to as “closed” or “open.” In a closed subgingival scaling, the cleaning of the area below the gums will be done with probing instruments but the gum itself will not be interfered with. In an open scaling, a small flap or window may be created to aid visibility and the efficacy of the plaque removal process. The idea is to remove plaque from as much of the tooth as possible to head off the possibility of infection, cavities, or periodontal disease.

Subgingival scaling is followed by a procedure known as root planing. In this portion of the aggressive cleaning procedure, the surfaces of the root are smoothed (planed) to make it more difficult for plaque and its colonizing bacteria to infiltrate in the future. Typically in these procedures the gum area may be slightly irritated for a short time after the procedure, but the gums generally heal quickly and any sensitivity should be fairly minimal. If indicated, this procedure shouldn’t be delayed. Delays can lead to severe oral health issues if the problem is not addressed quickly, resulting in more time, expense, and pain later.

The staff of Anthem Periodontics has many years and thousands of these procedures’ worth of experience, but their experience requires assistance from you, the patient. Conscientious, sound oral hygiene practices and avoiding such practices as smoking and tobacco use, drinking, drug use, and clenching or grinding teeth can all help an aggressive cleaning achieve its maximum effectiveness. However, given diligent oral health practices, these procedures can help greatly reduce the risk of periodontal disease or other oral health problems.

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