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What is the difference between Scaling, Root Planing, Root Surface Debridement and Deep Cleans? I’m confused!


Don’t panic, some dental professionals mix these terms up even when talking amongst professionals, so we totally understand why you need clarification!

  • ‘Scaling’ generally means professional hygiene care above the gumline and within the natural healthy pocket. Some people think of a “Scale and Polish” visit with a dental hygienist. This is an out-dated way of thinking of Professional Hygiene maintenance care, but it has been established wording for decades.
  • ‘Root Planing’ generally means professional cleaning below the gumline. It is quite an old-fashioned approach because the understanding of the disease in the 1970s and 1980s was that smooth root surfaces were necessary. As the science has evolved, we now know this is no longer the case.
  • ‘Scaling and Root Planing’ (SRP) is a combination of the above.
  • ‘Root Surface Debridement’ is a more modern approach to professional treatment, which is disruption of bacteria and toxins within each gum pocket without the need for scraping and perfectly smooth surfaces.
  • Sometimes several visits are needed (either in quick succession or at 4-weekly or 6-weekly intervals). Sometimes local anaesthetic is required and sometimes it is not. The method depends on your dental office’s recommendations.
  • Deep cleaning can mean either ‘Root Planing’ or ‘Root Surface Debridement’ and is often the way professionals explain the treatment to patients. It is almost a type of dental slang!

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