Scaling and polishing teeth removes debris from your mouth in places that your toothbrush can’t reach. This procedure can considerably eliminate the risk of cavities or infections caused by unbrushed plaque or tartar.
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Even regularly brushing teeth isn’t enough to completely stop the buildup of plaque and tartar. A dental visit at least once a year is recommended to get your teeth scaled and polished to remove disease-causing bacteria. Read this article to learn more about how scaling and polishing work, how you can get it done, and what the costs would be.
Dental scaling and polishing is formally known as a"root scaling and planning.” Scaling is a well-established dental procedure that’s been around for a while. Dentists use scaling as a treatment to minimize the risk of gum disease.
Polishing is done after the scaling and it is largely a cosmetic dental procedure. However, it can aid in cleaning roots of teeth.
Scaling and polishing procedures are also known as deep cleaning in conventional terms. There are several ways dental cleaning is done, so it’s important to be clear about what your dentist does.
Scaling and polishing is mainly done to eliminate plague and tartar (calculus) off your teeth. Read below for more information:
To understand the purpose of dental scaling, it’s important to know what dental plaque and tartar is. Even with regular brushing, mouth bacteria accumulates on our teeth. Oral bacterial thrive by eating food residue on our teeth. Plaque is a thin, sticky film largely composed of this bacteria.
We brush our teeth to get rid of this plaque. While it is naturally formed, plaque can release toxins, produced by bacterial during the digestion process, that damage our gums. That’s why bad oral hygiene leads to gingivitis, or gum disease. Scaling aims to prevent this condition.
Plaque is only dangerous when it accumulated near the gum line. It’s sometimes difficult for tooth brushes to remove plaque hiding near the gums. When plaque is left undisturbed for 24 hours, it hardens and becomes calculus, or tartar. This substance cannot be removed by regular tooth brushing, only scaling can do that.
Scaling is done using a special ultrasonic dental instrument. This instrument uses vibrations to remove plaque and tartar without damaging your teeth or gums. The vibrations are particularly helpful for dislodging hardened tartar.
The scaling instrument gently hums as it vibrated, which you may hear as a loud sound during the process. The scaling is usually done for a few minutes. However, it can take longer if you have more tartar in your mouth.
Performed after scaling, dental polishing makes your teeth surfaces cleaner and stain-free. Polishing is done using another dental instrument that resembles a soft rubber cup. The cub spins fast to posh your teeth.
Dentists or hygienists use a prophylaxis paste during the polishing process. The toothpaste-like paste is a mixture of cleaning and enamel polishing material. It’s normal for the paste to contain roughly a percent or so of fluoride. As you may know, fluoride kills bacteria and helps keep enamel healthy.
The polishing instrument essentially use the paste as a cleanser to remove stain and plaque residue form your mouth. Afterwards, your teeth would look shinier and feel cleaner.
Some dental clinics use water or air to polish teeth as well. This method blows air and water into the mouth at a pressure to remove debris. The resulting solution tastes a bit salty, but your mouth would be clean.
Whether scaling and polishing is actually necessary is a question most patients ask. As the procedure targets plaque and tartar in your mouth, if you have buildup of these substances, you would need scaling and polishing.
If your dentist is preparing you for surgery for gum disease, scaling and polishing could be in order before the surgery. Under gum scaling to prepare teeth roots is commonly done before oral surgery and gum contouring procedures.
Your dentist may recommend scaling and polishing if you are seen as at risk for gum disease. For example, if you have gums that recede exposing tooth roots, then you would be at risk of gum disease. In that case, a dentist would ask you to get your teeth scaled for good measure.
The dental scaling and polishing procedure starts with a careful examination of your mouth. The dentist would assess your teeth and gums to determine how to plan the scaling.
In the past, dental scaling was a multi-week process. But these days, scaling can be done with two or three visits to the dentist. Scaling removes plaque and tartar from the top of your teeth and sometimes from under the gum line as well. When the scaling is done under the gum line, it’s called root planning.
Over the gum line scaling is not painful and can be done quickly. However, if the scaling instrument goes under the gum line, it may feel slightly uncomfortable. If your teeth are sensitive, the procedure might feel mildly painful. Your dentist would give you a local anesthetic in case you experience any pain.
It should be noted that in some cases you may need to visit the dentist two to four times to complete the scaling process. It would be the case if you have gum disease or if you are at risk of gum disease. The length of the scaling depends on your dentist’s style as well. Some dentists plan the scaling in four quadrants of the mouth, while others segment the workload by two halves.
When the scaling is done, the dentist would move on to the polishing process. The dentist would use the instrument with the soft rubber cup. The paste would be applied to the rubber cup and moved over the scaled areas. Unlike scaling, polishing can be done with a single dental visit.
When everything is done, your dentist would examine your mouth once more. Then you will be given instructions on how to take care of your scaled and polished teeth. You would be warned against eating and drinking up to an hour following the procedure. You may asked to come in for a follow-up visit as well.
After your teeth scaling and polishing, your dentist would recommend you to brush your teeth and floss as usual. You should brush your teeth twice a day at least. In addition, your dentist would recommend maintaining a healthy diet for optimal dental care. Certain bad habits, liking eating or drinking sugary things right before bed, would have to go too.
If your dentist determines you are at risk for gum disease, you may have to return for scheduled and periodic cleanings. Usually, dental scaling is recommended very six months. For those at risk of gum disease, dentists recommend cleaning every three or four months.
There might be follow-up procedure to check up on your health after the scaling and polishing procedure. If the under-the-gum dental pockets that got scaled don’t shrink, you will have to return to the dentist.
Remember, dental scaling and polishing is not a permanent procedure. Plaque would continue to accumulate near the gum line if you neglect proper dental care.
Scaling and polishing is not intended to be a risky procedure. Scaling may feel mildly uncomfortable for some. You may experience some pain after the procedure. It’s normal if your gums feel a bit tender as well.
The biggest risk of the procedure is elevated tooth sensitiveness. In rare instances, gums may bleed following the procedure. In that case, the dentist would recommend a medication. Gum bleeding should cease within an hour or so following the procedure.
Dental polishing doesn’t have major complications associated with the procedure. As with scaling, your teeth might feel sensitive following the procedure.
Immediately following dental scaling or polishing, it’s advisable to be on the watch out for the following side effects:
Pain that gets gradually worse
Gums keep bleeding or remain tender and don’t heal
Fever or fever-like symptoms
The above side effects should immediately be reported to a dentist. It’s best if you seek medical care right away for severe side effects.
It’s possible that dental scaling introduces bacteria into your mouth. Therefore, dental scaling is not performed if you are at risk for an infection. Diseases like heart disease, liver disease, and having a compromised immune system due to HIV may disqualify you from scaling and polishing.
The costs of dental scaling and polishing can depend on the following factors:
Your risk for gum disease
The instruments used in the procedure
Dental clinic fees
Your geographical location
The number of visits required to complete the scaling process
Whether your dentist charges fees per tooth or per quadrant or segment of the mouth
In urban areas of the U.S. scaling and polishing costs around $500 at least. Costs can get higher depending on any of the above factors.
Your insurance plan might pay for dental scaling if you are considered at risk for gum disease. However, you would need a policy that covers dental care in general. Polishing is a cosmetic procedure, and therefore will not get covered by insurance or Medicaid plans.
To reduce costs of scaling and polishing, you can actively seek out clinics where the procedure costs less. This largely depends on the location of the clinic. Dental clinics in upscale neighborhoods would charge a lot for this procedure. In some countries, like the U.S., where healthcare costs are normally high, dental procedures like scaling and polishing cost a lot too.
You can consider a country like Turkey to enjoy overall lower dental care costs. Turkey has dentists trained according to EU standards who observe European laws for good practice. But the overall healthcare costs in this southern EU country is low. As a result, you can get your scaling and polishing done for a lot less, even after travel costs are considered. Learn about our dentists in turkey.
Dental scaling and polishing is mainly done to reduce your risk for gum disease. Gum disease has two forms. The mild form is called gingivitis, which makes your gums swell and teeth feel sensitive. Gingivitis is a manageable condition.
However, gingivitis overtime can worsen into a serious form called periodontitis. Periodontitis progresses into a serious medical condition over time. Periodontitis is caused by bacteria in your plaque releasing toxins that reach the gums. The toxins penetrate the gum tissue that keeps teeth held in place and causes it to break down.
This breaking down of gum disease creates empty pockets. To make matters even worse, these pockets can get filled with bacterial too. The bacteria would infect the gums, causing inflammation. As it get worse, periodontitis can affect bone tissue as well, resulting in tooth loss.
Here are some of the well-known symptoms of periodontitis:
Gums that are redder than usual, or even purple
Swelling in gums (puffiness)
Tenderness in gum tissue
Receding gums that expose teeth
New gaps appearing between teeth
Signs of infections like pus
Unusually bad breath
Pain when chewing
Changes in your bite
In its worse form, periodontitis becomes necrotizing, meaning it causes the death of gum tissue. Dead gum tissue loosens tooth ligaments and can cut supply to bone underneath. This is a very serious condition that might even be life threatening.
Proper dental care can prevent the onset of gum disease and stop gingivitis from progressing into periodontitis. Scaling and polishing can be a part of your dental routine that prevents plaque buildup. Scaling your teeth at least once a year may stall the onset of gum disease.
You should visit your doctor to have your gums checked out for plaque damage. Your dentist would recommend whether scaling and polishing is suited for your condition. In most cases, it is recommended. If you are at risk for gum disease, your dentist would recommend the procedure right away.
Don’t forget to eat well to protect your gums as well. You should have plenty of vitamin C in your diet, as lack of this vitamin can put you at risk for gum disease.