What Is a Root Planing?

Originally published on
Updated on

by

Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

What is a root planing? If you have gum disease, you have calculus and tartar below the gum line, and that means you’ve not had a dental cleaning frequently enough. The tartar that’s building up above the gum line is slowly creeping down past the gum line. So, the gum doesn’t quite attach to the tooth directly.

Video transcript:

Hi, Dr. Mark Burhenne here of AsktheDentist.com. I remember back in dental school when someone said, “We’re going to clean below your gums,” and I said, “No, you’re not.” And of course, it’s important to do that, and I’ll explain why in this video.

A lot of people have questions about root planing. What is a root planing? In dentistry, it’s called SRP: scale and root planing.

If you have gum disease, you have calculus and tartar below the gum line, and that means you’ve not had a [dental] cleaning frequently enough. The tartar that’s building up above the gum line is slowly creeping down past the gum line.

So, the gum doesn’t quite attach to the tooth directly. It attaches below the point that you see in the mouth. And, hence, there is a little moat or a little crevice around each tooth.

The tartar that builds up above the gum line starts creeping down, crystallizing under the tooth surface, and that needs to be removed. And that, technically, is called a root planing. You’re planing the root with an instrument. The hygienist will do it.

So if your dentist tells you that you need a root planing, you’re getting your roots planed, cleaned, scraped, and disinfected. And it’s an important procedure. It’s expensive because it takes longer. You may need anesthesia to have that accomplished, but it needs to be done.

If you don’t get it done, then you’re going to have all sorts of problems like heart disease, infections in the blood. Your inflammatory index, it’s called CRP, or your inflammatory index will rise and stay high and cause other parts of your body to become inflamed. And, of course, that’s not a good thing.

So, when your dentist says root planing, ask him about it. Ask how deep your pockets are. Typically, pockets get deeper with root planings past 3 mm. If you have 4 or 5mm pockets, then you will have to go beyond that normal depth and get the roots cleaned.

So, ask your dentist and get it done.

Dr. Mark Burhenne

Learn More: Know Before You Go: Teeth Cleanings