Dr. Kathleen Mullaney • DDS • FAGD

COVID 19 Protocol - Team Mullaney is fully vaccinated

Why Do I Need Scaling and Root Planing?

Why Do I Need Scaling and Root Planing?

Brushing and flossing are essential for good oral health, but sometimes they’re not enough. If you have an active gum infection, scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning procedure that can help remove harmful bacteria and plaque.

Find out what scaling and root planing is, why it’s important, and what to expect during the procedure here.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Healthy gums fit snugly around each tooth. But when plaque and tartar build up, your gums can become inflamed and swollen. This condition is called periodontal disease, and it causes pockets to form in your gums around your teeth.

As the gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, it can damage your teeth and the supporting bone in your mouth, which could lead to tooth loss.

What Is Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing is a deep-cleaning, non-surgical process aimed at treating — and ideally reversing, if caught in the early stages — periodontal disease.


Scaling is the first step in this process. It involves removing plaque and tartar from your teeth and tooth roots. Scaling can be done with hand tools, ultrasonic tools, or a combination of both.

Root Planing

Root planing is the process of smoothing the roots of the teeth. This removes any remaining plaque and tartar and also makes it difficult for bacteria to stick to your teeth in the future.

Why Do I Need Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing play a crucial role in treating and preventing gum disease. They remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from your teeth and gums, which can help:

  • Stop the progression of gum disease
  • Reduce inflammation and bleeding gums
  • Make gum pockets shallower
  • Prevent tooth and bone loss
  • Improve overall oral health
  • Prevent bad breath


Scaling and Root Planing Procedure: What to Expect

Scaling and root planing is a two-step procedure that might take more than one appointment.

  1. Consultation
  2. Before scaling and root planing, our Alexandria dental team will evaluate your oral health. We’ll ask about your dental history and any symptoms you have. We’ll also take X-rays to complete our overall assessment of your teeth and gums.

  3. Plaque and Tartar Removal
  4. During the procedure, your dental hygienist will use special tools to clean your teeth and gums. They’ll carefully remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of your teeth and the pockets between your teeth and gums.

  5. Smoothing the Tooth Roots
  6. After scaling, the hygienist will smooth and clean the roots of your teeth. Root planing helps to reduce inflammation and gingivitis, which can lead to gum disease.

  7. After Care
  8. Post scaling and root planing, taking good care of your teeth and gums is important. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, flossing once daily, and avoiding sugary foods and drinks. Your cleaning schedule will also be tightened to every 3-4 months.

    Check out our guide to what causes gum disease to learn how to prevent it.


Scaling and Root Planing FAQs


How Often Should I Get Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing are typically recommended for people with periodontal disease, defined as a pocket depth of 4mm or higher. The frequency of treatment will vary depending on the severity of the disease and the individual’s response to treatment. Some people may only need it once a year, while others may need it every 3-6 months.

Is Scaling and Root Planing Painful?

No, the procedure shouldn’t be painful. Some patients may experience minor discomfort during the scaling process, but a local anesthetic is typically used to reduce any irritation.

When Should I Consider Scaling and Root Planing?

If you have signs of gum disease, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums, bad breath that won’t go away, or loose teeth, see Dr. Mullaney right away. She can check your gums and tell you what treatment you need, which may include scaling and root planing.

Contact Our Alexandria, VA Dentist Today!

If you’re in Alexandria, Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, provides general and cosmetic dentistry services in a comfortable, friendly environment. Don’t wait until it’s too late — call 240-532-3335 today to schedule your dental cleaning and check-up.
Author Bio: Dr. Kathleen Mullaney offers various general and cosmetic dentistry services in Alexandria, VA. She earned her doctorate in dental surgery from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and proudly served as a United States Navy dentist before opening her practice. With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Mullaney is delighted to be one of Old Town’s most respected and sought-after dentists! Call 240-532-3335 to schedule an appointment.

Deal of the Day

* Includes necessary X-rays, Velscope Oral Cancer Screening and periodontal examination
(New Patients Only, excludes cleaning. Not billable to insurance)

Trusted in the Community

Had my first visit to Dr. Mullaney’s office this month since the pandemic and the experience was gold standard. The safety processes and clean office environment were impeccable. Dr. Mullaney and staff were, as usual, amazing. Every step was explained, the protective garments worn by staff were the best I have experienced. It was a safe and positive visit and I recommend making an appointment!!

I am a new patient. After my first dentist appointment with Dr. Mullaney, I left feeling very informed and in control of ultimately making decisions about the care and treatment I receive. The staff is incredibly kind and knowledgeable. I love that they participate in helping veterans through The Freedom Day USA program. They are committed to providing a very clean and friendly atmosphere. In addition this practice goes out of its way to bring comfort and the latest in dentistry to all their patients.

I never thought that a person could enjoy going to the dentist until I started seeing Dr. Mullaney. Her attractive and serene office and Dr. Mullaney and her competent and friendly staff make every visit a pleasure. They have a gift for making each experience smooth and efficient, with meticulous attention to the patient’s needs and comfort. On a scale of 1 to 10 this practice is a 15!

Dr. Mullaney and her staff are absolutely wonderful. They are very professional, personable and greet you by name when you walk in the door. Dr. Mullaney is very talented and really has perfected her craft. Even with a last-minute treatment change, she is unwavering in performing the highest quality treatment available. I am extremely grateful to you all for making my visit pleasant and even fun!