print this page

Scaling and Root Planing

Bacteria in the mouth form a sticky film, known as plaque, on the teeth and gums. If not removed, this film hardens into a crust called tartar. A build-up of plaque and tartar can cause an infection called periodontal disease.

Consequences of periodontal disease include:

  • pain
  • gum damage
  • bone loss
  • tooth loss


Scaling and root planing is a special type of cleaning done by a dental professional such as a general dentist, a dental hygienist, or a periodontist. This cleaning removes plaque and tartar and helps restore the health of the teeth and gums.


Scaling and root planing removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line and thus controls the growth of harmful bacteria. It also helps the gums reattach firmly to the teeth. Because this procedure goes deeper than a regular cleaning, the mouth may be numbed with an anesthetic. Scaling and root planing may take two to four (or more) visits to complete. Your mouth may feel sore and tender after treatment. Keep brushing and flossing your teeth after each meal. Warm saltwater rinses may help.