Scaling and polishing is done to remove deposits like calculus (tartar) and plaque from tooth surfaces. Over time, regular removal of said deposits may significantly reduce gingivitis (mild form of gum disease) and avert progression to severe gum disease or periodontitis.
Routine scaling and polishing is also sometimes referred to as “periodontal instrumentation,” “professional mechanical plaque removal,” and “prophylaxis.”
What is Teeth Scaling?
Scaling is a routine dental procedure done on patients with gum disease. This type of dental cleaning reaches below the gumline to remove any plaque buildup. The process is also sometimes known as deep cleaning.
Contrary to popular belief, this type of procedure goes beyond the typical general cleaning patients get during regular dental checkups and annual dental visits.
When is Dental Scaling Recommended?
Everyone can have some form of plaque buildup. This is not really surprising since bacteria, proteins, and saliva in the mouth can form a thin layer that covers the teeth at all times. When one eats, acids, sugars, and tiny particles from the food can stick to the film and create a buildup called plaque.
The bacteria that lives in the plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Regular flossing, brushing, and dental cleanings can help remove plaque and prevent further dental problems from developing.
If the gums are healthy, tissue will fit around the tooth, keeping plaque out. However, in people with gum disease, the tissue can loosen and deep pockets can develop. Plaques can fill the pockets and can worsen gum problems. It may also lead to other symptoms like bad breath.
Healthy gums are attached to the tooth 1 to 3 millimetres below the gumline. Patients with pockets measuring 4 millimetres (or more) might be required to undergo dental scaling to remove the plaque situated beneath the gum line and treat the gum disease.
What Does Dental Scaling Feel Like?
For those who have sensitive gums, dental scaling can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, your dentist can administer a local anaesthetic to numb the gum tissues and make the procedure comfortable. Talk with your dentist about desensitising options if you are concerned about discomfort or pain during the process.
Dental scaling can take several sessions, with the dentist addressing different portions of the mouth each visit. Some dentists work by dividing the mouth into 4 quadrants. Others on the other hand choose to perform the procedure in two halves.
Patients who want to have the procedure done in one session should talk to their dentist about it. While it’s not often an option, it might be possible for those patients who have moderate gum disease and are amenable to sitting down for a long period of time.
What Can One Expect After Dental Scaling?
After the procedure, the mouth can feel sensitive and sore. Some patients may even experience bleeding or swelling for a few days. To help ease the discomfort, your dentist may suggest a desensitising toothpaste.
Some may also be prescribed a mouthwash to use after the procedure to ensure the gum is kept clean. In addition, proper flossing and brushing should be observed after the procedure to ensure plaque does not form in the same areas again.
A second visit might also be scheduled after the procedure so the dentist can check the gums, measure the depth of the gum pockets, and examine if the mouth is healing accordingly.