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Dental Scaling FAQs: What You Want to Know

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Regular dental cleanings are probably very familiar to most people. Once or twice a year, you pay a visit to your dentist, check your teeth, remove any accumulated plaque, and give your teeth a good brushing with a gritty toothpaste and high-powered brush. But what happens when you need more than just a standard cleaning?

Plaque is a bacterial film that forms on the surface of your teeth, and when it is not regularly removed, it hardens into a calcified material known as tartar. Tartar can begin to form in as little as 72 hours, and unlike plaque, tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing alone. Fortunately, your dentist can treat tartar buildup with a process known as dental scaling.

Learn more about Treatment Options for Gum Disease

What is Dental Scaling?

Dental scaling is a deep clean that goes beyond the surface of the tooth and gum line to remove tartar that has accumulated below the gumline. Your dentist or dental hygienist will use handheld or ultrasonic tools to remove the plaque and tartar, leaving you one step closer to a healthy smile.

Dental scaling is often accompanied by root planing, which goes a little further, removing plaque and tartar from the tooth’s root surface.

Why Do I Need Dental Scaling?

Everyone has some level of plaque. This film-like substance is a mixture of saliva, proteins, and bacteria and forms naturally on your teeth. Good oral hygiene habits like brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings are usually enough to prevent an excessive plaque buildup.  However, poor oral care practices can result in a buildup of plaque and tartar and lead to a severe oral infection known as periodontal disease.

Healthy gums connect to the teeth between 1 and 3 millimetres from the gum line, and this connection helps keep plaque-causing bacteria from forming under the gums and keeps your teeth secure. But when this plaque is not regularly removed from teeth, bacteria can begin to damage your teeth and gums.

In its mildest form, periodontal disease is referred to as gingivitis. Gingivitis is very common and easily treated. However, left untreated, deep pockets between the teeth and gums will begin to form, creating an open invitation for bacteria, plaque, and tartar. This is known as periodontal or gum disease, and it can have severe side effects, including damage to the structure of your jawbone and tooth loss.

Dental scaling removes the plaque and tartar from below the gum line, allowing your gums to heal and reducing or eliminating pockets over time.

What Does Dental Scaling Feel Like?

Dental scaling in a non-invasive procedure. Patients have described the procedure as feeling like their teeth are being scraped vigorously – which they are. While some patients may find it uncomfortable, almost all can resume normal activities immediately afterward. Your dentist may offer a local anesthetic to numb the area around your gums.

The length of the procedure will vary depending on the severity of the gum disease and a patient’s willingness or ability to sit for long periods. In milder cases, dental scaling and root planing can be completed in as little as 1-2 hours. Two or more appointments may be required to complete the procedure in other cases. Your dental professional may also request a follow-up appointment to ensure that the periodontal pockets are closing.

What to Expect After Dental Scaling?

After a dental scaling, it is normal for gums to swell and feel a little tender for a few days. You may also witness mild bleeding. Your dentist may suggest a desensitizing toothpaste to help with any discomfort.

What is most important after dental scaling and root planing is to make sure that you get into the habit of brushing and flossing correctly (and regularly at least twice a day!) to prevent plaque from building up on the same areas again.

If these dental scaling FAQs haven’t answered all of your questions, contact Cumberland Periodontics and Implant Surgery for more information.