What is dental scaling?

Periodic professional teeth cleaning should be performed at routine dental visits. In many cases, however, patients require deeper dental cleaning. In these cases, your dentist may recommend dental scaling. Dental scaling is a common dental procedure that helps people with gum disease and excessive dental plaque buildup. Standard dental cleaning addresses the surfaces of the teeth, while scaling, sometimes referred to as deep-cleaning, is more comprehensive and thorough. Scaling is a procedure that cleans deep below the gumline, helping to remove plaque that has built up there. Everyone has some amount of plaque on their teeth, but in some cases, this plaque may cause gum disease and tooth decay. While regular brushing and flossing, as well as periodic standard teeth cleanings, are the most effective way to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, sometimes, the gums still become inflamed or diseased. Healthy gums fit tightly around your teeth and help keep the plaque from getting trapped between the gums and teeth. In cases of gum disease, however, the tissue of the gums may start to relax, loosening around the teeth and causing the pockets in which the teeth sit to deepen. These pockets can accumulate plaque, which can lead to further disease and cause other complications, like bad breath. Your dentist will assess your oral health before any professional cleaning procedure, determining the depth of the pockets of your teeth and the extent of any gum disease. The dentist may then recommend a dental scaling procedure to remove any plaque below the gumline and help prevent further gum disease.

Dental scaling is often performed with handheld metal dental instruments. The dental hygienist will carefully use these dental instruments to reach beneath the gumline and scrape away plaque that you can’t remove with routine brushing and flossing. Some dentists use an ultrasonic instrument to perform scaling procedures. These tools cause plaque and tartar to chip away from the teeth using tiny vibrations and a stream of water that rinses out the tooth pockets. Once the scaling procedure is complete, many dentists will recommend root planing, which cleans deeper than scaling and allows the root of the tooth to be cleaned and prepared so the gum tissue may properly reattach to the root of the tooth.

Especially if you have sensitive teeth, dental scaling may cause some discomfort. For this reason, your dentist will usually offer a local anesthetic, to help reduce discomfort. Dental scaling is also often performed over a series of office visits, with each visit focusing on one specific area of the mouth. It may be possible for your dentist to perform the procedure in only one visit, however, depending on the extent of the gum disease and the availability of the dentist. Always make sure to talk to your dentist and ask any questions that may arise before you decide how to proceed with dental scaling. Following the procedure, you may feel some soreness or experience swelling in the area that was scaled. You may receive a prescription for special mouthwash or a recommendation to use a desensitizing toothpaste, which may help reduce discomfort and keep the scaled areas clean. Following a scaling procedure, it is imperative that you adopt consistent brushing and flossing habits, to prevent plaque from forming on the scaled areas. Your dentist will also schedule a follow-up visit for you, to reexamine your gums and to ensure that you’re healing properly.

More information on Teeth Cleaning : What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?