Dental Scaling 101: Understand the Tools Used in this Common Dental Procedure

Dental planing and scaling, also known as deep cleaning, is a procedure done at your dentist’s office to rid your gums of harmful bacteria that causes periodontal disease. Plaque, a sticky layer that is made up of bacteria and food particles, will calcify over time becoming hard and irremovable at home through regular brushing. The simple procedure of scaling removes the plaque and smoothes the rough surface so that further deposits cannot take place, and your gums will remain healthy.

All individuals develop plaque. Regular brushing (two times per day), flossing, and dental check-ups are often enough to rid your mouth of excess plaque. However, leaving plaque and tartar on your teeth (by not visiting your dentist and exercising poor brushing habits) provide the perfect environment for bacteria to not only survive, but thrive. When plaque is left undisturbed, it begins to absorb the mineral content in saliva and becomes a hard substance know as calculus. This substance, also called tartar is harder than bone and can only be removed by your dentist. If your gums look swollen, red, and bleed easily, this may be the early stage of a gum disease called gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis will turn into periodontal disease. This is when scaling becomes an ideal treatment option.

Prior to treatment, a patient is generally numbed in the area that is to be treated. Because this procedure can involve a very deep cleaning, it is generally done in more than one appointment, with up to one half of the mouth being numbed per visit.

To get a deep clean, there are many instruments we may use. Among the most common, an electric device known as an ultrasonic scaler, and a sonic scaler, or power scaler, may be used. This device vibrates at a frequency perfect for removing stains, plaque, and calculus. This machine also creates tiny air bubbles through a process called cavitation. These tiny air bubbles are able to kill off bacteria because the bacteria is anaerobic, meaning they cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.

It is extremely important to remove all deposits, so a hand instrument may be used to get anything that the power scaler left behind. Although the entire procedure could be done through the use of a hand scaler, the ultrasonic scaler provides a much quicker treatment time.

After the appointment there may be some tenderness and discomfort that can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen. Teeth may be more sensitive to temperature and bleeding may occur for a brief time after treatment. If the deposits are minimal, there may be little to no discomfort during and after treatment.

Deep cleaning and other periodontal surgeries can largely be avoided by careful cleaning of your teeth and gums. Regular dental check ups can also help alert to any problems that are developing. If you haven’t been in to see us in over six months – give us a call and schedule an appointment today.

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