What is scaling and root planing? And how often should you get the SRP procedure done?

Henry Hackney

Written by Henry Hackney DMD, Nichole McKenna DDS, Matthew Stewart DDS, Jack Lawrence DMD, Namrita Harchandani DMD

Also referred to as scaling and root planing, a deep dental cleaning is performed to treat gum disease. It is often the only procedure needed. Since over half of American adults suffer from some form of periodontists, it is a common procedure at the dental office.

The aim of this is to remove bacteria and infection from the soft tissues around the gums. Inflammation goes down and teeth eventually have more support. Read the guide below to find out whether you might need SRP and what the procedure looks like.

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Signs you need deep teeth cleaning

Bitewing dental X-ray

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Scaling and root planing types

Henry Hackney

Henry Hackney, DMD

Periodontal disease has a multitude of causes including, but not limited to, age, tobacco use, oral hygiene, and genetic predisposition.

Preventive SRP

Preventive SRP procedure

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Therapeutic SRP

Terapeutic SRP procedure

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If the patient displays moderate to severe inflammation on more than 30% of the mouth the SRP is no longer considered “preventive”. Symptoms of such a situation include swollen, bleeding, or inflamed gums.

In such a case the procedure can only be conducted after an oral examination. A dentist must first assess what state the mouth is in. Often, periodontal disease cannot be fully cured, but rather maintained. This means you may have to come in for SRP regularly.

Scaling and root planing procedure

The SRP procedure shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. It all depends on the severity of the problem and what portion of the mouth is being treated.

The process of a deep teeth cleaning may start out very similarly to that of a regular prophylaxis.

Any changes in your dental history or new medication should be reported to the dentist. After that, he or she will let you know what is going to happen step by step. An X-ray is likely to take place.

The hygienist will use a special tool to measure the depth of your gum pockets. Healthy pockets should not be 4 mm or above.

A hand-held scaler will be used to manually remove the plaque from the teeth and roots. An ultrasonic tool may be used to aid this process.

The dental professional will use a rubbing motion to scrape off roughness from your roots. Those spots are where the bacteria reside.

Time-release antibiotics might be applied to manage the inflammation in the gums. You will be given instructions on how to care for your mouth for the next few days or weeks.

Scaling and root planing effectiveness depends on patients maintaining or beginning to conduct proper oral hygiene and care.

In very extreme cases surgical treatment might be necessary. The patient is often, but not always, referred to a specialist.

SRP aftercare instructions

Medication on tongue

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There are a few things to bear in mind after your scaling and root planing procedure.

Take ibuprofen if you feel sore after the procedure. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help heal your gums faster. Your mouth will feel numb after the anesthetic, so it’s easy to burn your mouth on hot food. Try to abstain from eating for at least 2 hours.

Use saltwater rinses 2-3 a day for a few days. This will help soothe your mouth. Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush. You can also floss the night of the procedure. Use a water flosser if you have one.

You might feel sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures for a few days. Desensitizing toothpaste can help there. Avoid products with “whitening” properties and baking soda, as those can irritate the soft tissues in your mouth.

And lastly, do not smoke for 24-48 hours after your procedure. It can slow down healing significantly.

Scaling and root planing near me


Not for every patient. SRP is required when there is considerable tartar and plaque buildup that cannot be removed during a simple teeth cleaning.

Patients describe the procedure as uncomfortable but not painful. Either way, local anesthetic can be administered to minimize any scaling and root planing pain.

Hard and sticky snacks may cause sensitivity or reduce the effectiveness of scaling and root planing. You best stick to soft foods such as soups and pasta for at least a day. Drink plenty of fluids, ideally water, as well.

Generally, there aren’t many scaling and root planing risks if the procedure is done correctly. There’s no way teeth fall out after deep cleaning, unless you grossly fail to follow post op instructions. This may also lead to bacteria in the bloodstream, a fever, and tooth sensitivity.

If you suffer from any diseases that make you particularly vulnerable to infection, you may have to take a course of antibiotics. This may start before the procedure.