Scaling and Root Planing Isn’t Always Enough to Treat Gum Disease

SRP is not always 100% effective. Calculus and bacteria can be left behind.

Dental scaling and root planing, known as SRP, is often used when a straightforward cleaning isn’t enough, and is sometimes called deep cleaning. This nonsurgical procedure aims to remove the plaque and calculus or tartar which has built up around and just under the gum line by scaling or scraping the teeth. The process can help leave nice smooth surfaces enabling the gum tissue to attach more firmly to the surface of the tooth, and is one of the most common therapies used to treat gum disease1.

While SRP is often regarded as being the gold standard in the treatment of gum disease, it isn’t always 100% effective. Part of the problem is due to the fact that the clinician cannot generally see the calculus below the gum line, and must rely on their sense of touch to scrape away the calculus. This lack of visual feedback heightens the chance some small areas of calculus being inadequately removed. When gum disease is left improperly treated, the patient can experience tissue inflammation, gum recession, and even bone loss. Not only can this put the patient’s overall health at risk, but it can also allow the gum disease to worsen to a point where it requires additional treatments.

If it is discovered in subsequent periodontal evaluations that scaling and root planing is inadequate to control the patient’s gum disease, then further periodontal treatments or gum surgery may be required. Gum surgery can be quite invasive and painful, not to mention expensive, and may only manage the periodontal disease rather than clear it up completely. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to fight the infection, however long term use could lead to antibiotic resistance4, leaving patients at risk of developing painful and serious infections which are no longer controllable through the use of medication.

While scaling and root planing can do much to treat gum disease, it is not always 100% effective, and it’s the responsibility of the patient to ensure their oral health is maintained. Patients can help themselves by looking out for early signs of gum disease, and by ensuring they never miss a dental checkup or cleaning. It’s an ongoing battle to stay disease free through a commitment to better oral health, but prevention is definitely better than the cure.

  1. Teeth Scaling and Root Planing. Dentanet.org.uk
  2. Treating Periodontal Disease. Journal of the American Dental Association Vol. 134, February 2003
  3. Pocket Depth Reduction. American Academy of Periodontology
  4. Antimicrobial Therapy. Colgate.com
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