Scaling and Polishing
Scaling is a meticulous procedure that removes plaque present on the tooth surface as well as embedded within the pocket. A little discomfort may be experienced as cleaning is done slightly below the gum line.
After scaling, a high pressure salt spray (Prophy-Jet) will be used to remove surface tooth stains due to coffee, tea or nicotine, and polish the tooth surface to restore tooth luster.
When is Scaling & Polishing Necessary?
You should have your teeth scaled and polished as often as your hygienist or dentist recommends. It all depends on your gum health and your level of commitment to your oral hygiene program.
Even if your teeth do not need cleaning every 6 months, it is recommended that everyone go twice a year to be checked for oral cancer and other diseases whose symptoms first appear in the mouth.
Specialized instruments are used by the dental hygienist/dentist to gently remove these deposits without damaging the teeth. The instruments which may be used during your cleaning, and what they feel like, are described below.
An ultrasonic instrument (often used first) uses tickling vibrations to loosen large pieces of tartar stuck on the teeth. It also sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a proper temperature. This device is known to emit a humming or high-pitched whistling sound. This may seem louder than it actually is because the sound may get amplified inside your head.
The tips of the ultrasonic instrument are curved and rounded, and always kept in motion around the teeth. They are not sharp since their purpose is to loosen tartar and not cut into the teeth. It is best to inform the dental hygienist/dentist if the sensations are too strong/ticklish, so that they can adjust the setting on the device or modify the pressure applied.
Larger deposits that have hardened on the teeth can take some time to remove, just like trying to remove baked-on grime from a stove that has been left over a long time. This means your first cleaning may take longer than future cleanings.
Fine Hand Tools
Once the larger pieces of tartar are gone, the dental worker will switch to finer hand tools (called scalers and curettes in dental-speak) to remove smaller deposits and smoothen the tooth surfaces. These tools are designed to match the curves of the teeth. They allow smaller tartar deposits to be removed by carefully scraping them off with a gentle to moderate amount of pressure.
When all teeth surfaces are smooth, the dental hygienist/dentist can proceed to polish your teeth. Polishing is done with a slow-speed hand piece, which comes with a soft rubber cup that spins on one end. Prophylaxis (short for prophy) paste – a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is scooped up like ice cream into the cup and spun around on the teeth to make them shiny smooth.
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Q – Is it going to be painful?
Most people feel no pain, and find that the sensations described above – tickling vibrations, the cooling mist of water, and the feeling of pressure while “scraping” – do not cause discomfort. Many even report that they enjoy cleanings and the lovely smooth feel of their teeth afterwards! There may be odd zingy sensations, but many people don’t mind as they only last a nanosecond.
Be sure to let your dentist/hygienist know if you find things getting too uncomfortable for your liking. They can recommend various options to make the cleaning more enjoyable.
Painful cleaning experiences are caused by various things, such as a rough dentist/hygienist, exposed dentine (not dangerous, but can make cleanings unpleasant), or presence of gum disease.
In case you may have had painful cleaning experiences let the dentist or hygienist know. You could also choose to be numbed. If you find the scaling uncomfortable because of sensitive gum tissues, topical numbing gels can be applied.
What to Expect after Treatment
The dentist or the team member will educate you how to care for your teeth and gum tissue. Correct flossing and brushing techniques will be also be reviewed to help you eliminate the chances of future bacteria development and tartar formation.