Scaling and Polishing
What is it?
Plaque is a soft sticky substance that builds up on
your teeth. It is mostly made up of bacteria.
The bacteria in plaque feed on sugar from food
and drink, producing acids as a waste
product. The acids attack the teeth by dissolving the minerals in the
tooth surface. If this happens too often, tooth decay results.
And, if plaque is allowed to build up, the bacteria in it can cause gum
disease, making your gums sore and infected.
Tartar (also known as 'calculus'), formed by hardened plaque, helps
plaque to gather and makes it harder to remove when you brush.
You can't remove tartar just by brushing your teeth, but a dentist or
hygienist can remove it using special instruments - this is known as
A dentist or hygienist can also polish your teeth. This removes stains
from coffee, tea, cigarettes or red wine; and it makes it more difficult
for plaque to stick to your teeth.
If you clean your teeth very thoroughly at home, your scale and
polish treatment will take less time.
Dentists and hygienists use two types of instrument for scaling:
- Hand scalers are metal scrapers that come in different sizes and
shapes, to reach different parts of the teeth. This is why you will
see the dentist or hygienist changing instruments quite often.
- Electric scalers use a tip that vibrates very fast in a stream of
water. The water is removed from your mouth using a small
suction device. A hand scaler is also used along with an electric
scaler; to check whether the teeth are completely clean.
For polishing, your dentist will use a rotating brush or rubber
polisher with a special toothpaste.
Scaling cleans above and below the gumline. If you have gum disease,
you may also need deeper scaling, around the roots of the teeth -
this is called 'root planing'. Your dentist may give you a local
anaesthetic for this.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will also tell you about the best way
to clean your teeth and gums thoroughly at home.
What are the benefits?
- Regular scaling and polishing by a dentist or hygienist help keep
your teeth and gums healthy by making it easier for you to keep
your teeth clean at home. You should see and feel the difference.
- If your gums bleed when you brush, you may have early gum
disease. Regular scaling helps to stop the disease getting worse;
and it helps you to eliminate the disease by thorough cleaning
- Bad breath is often caused by gum disease. Regular scaling, and
cleaning your teeth thoroughly at home, can prevent this.