What Is It?

Debridement is the removal of excessive amounts of plaque and tartar from your teeth.

What It's Used For

Debridement is done on people who have heavy plaque and tartar (calculus) build-up, usually because they haven't visited a dentist in several years. The plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth is so heavy that your dentist can't see the teeth to examine them. Before he or she can do an exam, the plaque and tartar must be removed through debridement.


Some people who are very sensitive to pain might need local anesthesia for this procedure. Others might require some form of sedation, such as nitrous oxide. Often, people who avoid the dentist have some form of dental phobia, so anesthesia or sedation may be necessary to make them comfortable.

How It's Done

Debridement is done with a combination of hand instruments and an ultrasonic device. This device uses water and high-frequency vibrations to dislodge plaque and tartar from the teeth.


Debridement is usually the first phase of comprehensive periodontal treatment. After completing the debridement, your dentist will re-evaluate your teeth to determine the appropriate course of therapy, which may involve scaling and root planing or periodontal surgery.


If your gums are inflamed they can bleed during the procedure. In some cases, you may notice that your teeth are sensitive to temperature (hot and/or cold) after debridement. This occurs when the roots of the teeth are exposed following the removal of plaque and tartar.

Infection is possible after debridement, but it is very rare.

When To Call a Professional

Call your dentist if:

  • You have bleeding that doesn't stop
  • You think the area might be infected
  • You have excessive swelling or discharge from the area
  • Lymph nodes beneath your lower jaw or in your neck become swollen

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