Background. Although periodontal scaling and root plaining, or SRP, is one of the most common procedures used in dental practice, there is little information available about the degree of post-procedural pain associated with it. The authors undertook this study to document the intensity and duration of pain after SRP with a view toward helping practitioners and their patients manage postprocedural discomfort. Methods. Using the Heft-Parker self-assessment pain scale, 52 adults with moderate periodontitis evaluated their pain before and after SRP conducted with local anesthetic. Results. After SRP, 28 percent of all patients reported faint-to-weak pain, 18 percent experienced weak-to-mild pain, 28 percent experienced mild-to-moderate pain, 8 percent had moderate-to-strong pain and 8 percent reported strong-to-intense pain. The average time to onset of maximum pain was approximately three hours after SRP, and the average duration of mild or greater pain was about six hours. Upon awakening the morning after SRP, subjects found that pain had returned to pre-SRP levels. Overall, 23 percent of all patients reported self-medicating with analgesics to relieve postprocedural pain. Women self-medicated earlier (P < .05) and more often than men (43 percent vs. 10 percent; P < .05). Conclusions. Patients experienced significant duration and magnitude of pain after SRP. This pain peaked between two and eight hours after SRP, lasted about six hours, and returned to pre-SRP levels by the morning after the procedure. Almost 25 percent of all patients self-medicated to relieve pain after SRP, and women took analgesic medication earlier and more often than men. Clinical Implications. Practitioners should consider using appropriate analgesic drugs to alleviate mild-to-moderate pain after SRP. On the basis of this study, it would appear that an analgesic that has a peak effect two to eight hours after the completion of SRP would be the most appropriate medication. Moreover, it is unlikely that analgesic medication would be needed by most patients beyond the day on which SRP was performed.
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