Dental Debridement

Table of Contents
The Procedure
What is Plaque?
What is Tartar?
Scaling and Root Planing

By John Baker



Dental debridement refers to the process involved in the removal of excessive amounts of plaque and tartar (calculus) from your teeth. Plaque and tartar accumulate when proper oral hygiene and regular dental appointments are being neglected.

When you do not clean your teeth daily, the plaque on your teeth eventually turns to tartar which promotes tooth decay and dental cavities (or caries). Once they have had an opportunity to accumulate, a dentist or hygienist must professionally clean your teeth to remove them. A scaler and ultrasonic water instrument is used to break down the tartar and then wash it away.  

What is dental debridement?

The Debridement Procedure

The Procedure

The scaler instrument used during debridement is used to scrape as much plaque and tartar off the teeth as possible. After the scaler, an ultrasonic water tool is used to wash away any extra loose plaque debris. The procedure generally lasts from one to two hours.

During the debridement procedure all of the accumulated tartar and plaque must be removed from the gum line. The procedure can be uncomfortable for some patients. In such cases a sedative or local anesthetic is given to the patient beforehand. The sedative can also assist with those patients who have neglected to visit the dentist due to a phobia or apprehension. Many patients experience some gum irritation and tooth sensitivity after the procedure is completed.

After debridement your dentist will give recommendations on the optimal methods of maintaining good oral hygiene. An additional appointment is scheduled one week later to evaluate the condition of the teeth. Only after the procedure, can the health of the teeth and gums be properly evaluated. In some cases additional treatments are required such as periodontal treatments or scaling and root planing to fully restore the teeth back to health. Debridement is often the first phase of periodontal treatment.

You should visit your dentist if you are experiencing any of the following after your procedure:

  1. If you are experiencing excessive inflammation
  2. If you are readily bleeding
  3. If you feel lumps beneath your jaw.

What to expect during the debridement procedure?

What is Plaque?

Dental plaque is the colorless film of bacteria that develops naturally on teeth. It is formed through bacteria attempting to attach itself to the tooth's surface. Plaque is the major catalyst in the formation of tooth decay and dental cavities. When plaque builds up it turns into tartar which works to breakdown dental structures. The most common areas susceptible to plaque buildup are the sections of the teeth most difficult to clean (i.e. the back molars)

Bacteria is constantly forming in your mouth, promoting plaque development. These bacteria use your saliva and food you eat to grow and develop. It is when the acids from plaque begin to attack teeth that you develop cavities. Plaque that is not removed can irritate your gums and lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss.

what can cause plaque buildup?

When you consume foods which are high in sugar or neglect your oral hygiene, it promotes bacteria growth which in turn produce acids. As time passes these acids combine with plaque to destroy tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.

When plaque accumulates underneath the gums it can result in irritation and inflammation of the gum tissue causing gum disease. Without proper treatment plaque buildup can do significant structural damage to your teeth and structural bones.

What is Tartar?

Tartar (or dental calculus) is formed when plaque is allowed to accumulate and harden on the teeth. Tartar is much more difficult to remove from your teeth than plaque and must be cleaned by a dentist. Buildup of tartar can lead to serious dental disorders, like: dental cavities and gum disease. Plaque and tartar are the major catalyst in advanced stages of periodontal disease and dental cavities

Information about Tartar Buildup

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is the most effective treatment of early periodontal disease. It involves cleaning between the gums and the teeth down to the roots. It is a procedure implemented when the gums have started to recede away from the teeth or if the roots have started developing tartar. 

Additional information