Root Planing – What is it? Do I need it?
If plaque and tartar build up on your teeth, conditions are good for bacteria and dental decay. The bacteria may irritate the gums and make them bleed more easily. This is the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. Consistent brushing and flossing along with regular trips to the dentist for cleaning, scaling, and polishing usually keep gum disease at a minimum but most adults have some level of gum disease.
If left untreated, gingivitis may work its way down a tooth creating a “periodontal pocket” which can lead to further damage. Significant tooth decay can occur. If gingivitis is significant, your dentist may perform root planning. Root planing is the process of smoothening the root surfaces, cleaning out the periodontal pockets, and removing any infected tooth structure. Root planing leaves a smooth surface. Depending upon the depth of the pocket, your dentist may elect to numb the planing area to make it comfortable for you. If the planing is minor, numbing may not be necessary.
If a significant amount of planing is necessary, the procedure may be broken down into quadrants of your mouth with each quadrant being addressed at a single appointment. If planing is minor, and little numbing is required, the entire mouth can be done in a single appointment. The planed area may be sensitive for a few days after the procedure but should heal up quickly leaving you with much healthier gums.
The important thing to remember is that root planing in an intermediate step for preventing or reversing gum disease. Your first line of defense is good hygiene and regular dental visits. If gingivitis progresses to develop pockets, root planing is your next step. If you go too long without addressing gum disease, tooth damage becomes too severe and you are left with fewer and much more costly tooth reconstructive options. Therefore, address any gum issues you may have as soon as possible.