Scale and Polish – What?
A scale and Polish is the cleaning of your teeth, both the visible part above the gums and just under the gums where your toothbrush is unable to reach. Scaling refers to the removal of plaque and calculus, this is the white or yellow hard deposits that can build up on your teeth and is not removable by routine brushing (a bit like limescale in the kettle). The calculus can also build up just under the gums where your brush cannot reach.
The polishing refers to the removal of stains and very small particles of calculus using a high speed brush.
The dentist may sometimes refer you to the Hygienist for a scale and polish. The hygienist specialises in the health of your gums and your general oral health.
Scale and Polish – Why?
To prevent decay- Plaque is a naturally occurring substance that exists on the surfaces of the teeth. When plaque builds up it hardens to form calculus or tartar. Bacteria thrive in the crevices formed by the plaque and calculus and combined with food debris lead to increased risk of tooth decay.
To prevent or minimize the effects of gum disease- Once formed, plaque and tartar or calculus irritates the gums causing them to become inflamed, and infected. This infection is known as gingivitis or gum disease. Your gums and jaw bone are the foundations of your teeth, if your gums deteriorate and calculus remains, the bone around your teeth can be slowly eaten away. Your teeth no longer have foundations and can no longer be held in place, they become loose and eventually fall out or have to be extracted.
The most common referral is for a routine scale and polish. If your gums are more seriously infected detailed root planing must be carried out.
Scale & Polish -How?
The hygienist or dentist scales your teeth by using a combination of hand and motorised instruments in order to remove the calculus which builds up on your teeth both above and slightly below gum level.
The hygienist polishes your teeth using a high speed brush or rubber cup together with special cleaning pastes. This removes staining and small particles of remaining calculus. The debris which the hygienist removes cannot be removed by toothbrush and toothpaste at home.
A lot of water is used to cool the scaling instruments and to wash away the debris as it is removed, a suction tube is used to suck away the excess water during the procedure.
The scaling of teeth can sometimes be sensitive, especially if your gums have receded and the top of the root of the tooth is exposed. Should you require it, the dentist can give you an injection to numb each area of your mouth to minimise the sensitivity. However this will require more than one visit to the dental practice as it is not possible to numb the entire mouth at one time.