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Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is a condition where plaque and tartar extend under the gum line and infect the tissue there. If you have periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease, the gums pull away from teeth and begin to deteriorate. Your dentist is able to treat periodontitis, and the most common treatment options are scaling and root planing.

If periodontitis isn’t too advanced, scaling and root planing may be the only treatments necessary. Plaque and tartar are scraped away from above and below the gum line in scaling with the use of an ultrasonic or manual scaler. Root planing uses a curette to smooth the tooth root, which prevents plaque and tartar buildup and helps the gums to reattach to teeth.

Scaling and root planing may need to be done several times depending on how advanced the periodontitis is. Your dentist will numb your mouth with a local anesthetic because the procedure can be uncomfortable. They may also recommend a mouth rinse or medication to help you deal with discomfort in the days following scaling and root planing.

Scaling and root planing can help save teeth and gum tissue. You can also prevent gum disease from developing again by brushing and flossing your teeth daily, avoiding tobacco use, keeping a good diet, and seeing your dentist every 6 months.