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Tooth scaling : Do you need it?

  • July 7, 2020

You may be a regular visitor at the dentist’s but every time you go in for an oral check-up, your dentist mostly says about tooth scaling and likely suggests a dental clean-up. Brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent a lot of dental ailments but that is not all you should do to maintain proper oral health and hygiene. A dental cleaning session is an important step to incorporate every few months if you are firm on maintaining good oral health. Proper oral health reflects the general health of the body. Plaque, tartar, and stains do not just impact your smile but also risks your overall health so you should do everything in your power to ensure a healthy mouth. But what can you possibly do that you don’t already? Brushing? Check. Flossing? Check. Regular tooth scaling? Yes, that’s important too!

What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a soft, sticky, and colorless deposit that forms on tooth surfaces due to poor oral hygiene practices. The dental plaque forms a biofilm consisting of bacteria aggregations, exfoliated cells, and food particles that begin adhering to the teeth and initiate the process of gum disease. The bacteria begin to rapidly and sequentially colonize the teeth and multiply rapidly in this film. The biofilm also acts as a protective coating and when dental plaque is not removed within 10 to 14 hours by means of brushing and flossing, it mineralizes into hard calculus and tartar. Calculus once formed cannot be removed by brushing and has to be professionally removed by the dentist. So, do not attempt to remove it at home!

The dental plaque is classified into two – supragingival and subgingival. Supragingival plaque refers to the plaque found on the visible surfaces of the tooth whereas subgingival plaque means the plaque found below the gum margins. Wherever the plaque gets deposited also gives you an insight into where the tartar would possibly be deposited. Not only does plaque cause gum disease but can also cause bad breath! The magic words to get rid of stinky breath are ‘tooth scaling’!

What is tooth scaling?

If you have a stubborn case of gum disease, your dentist will recommend a dental scaling. But isn’t tooth scaling just a synonym for teeth cleaning? Well, not really. Tooth scaling is a routine dental procedure performed to get rid of excessive plaque build-up. In essence, dental scaling is an extensive procedure that involves two important steps- first, the removal or debridement of dental plaque and calculus, followed by a process of smoothing, or planing of the exposed surfaces of the roots, successfully removing cementum or dentine that have been impregnated with tartar, toxins, or microorganisms, all of which are responsible for causing inflammation.

While a typical standard cleaning process will address the surface of the tooth, dental scaling goes deeper and is often accompanied by root planing, collectively known as “a deep cleaning”. It is considered a “gold standard” of treatment for patients with acute or chronic gum disease (periodontitis), as stated in the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice. Teeth scaling is a procedure that eliminates the enabling environment created by bacteria in the plaque biofilm and is thus frequently used as a measure to avert periodontal diseases.

What happens during teeth scaling?

Tooth scaling and root planing can be done at your dentist’s office as an outpatient procedure.

  • Your dentist may or may not administer a local anesthetic solution to lessen the pain and discomfort associated with the procedure.
  • If your dentist makes use of manual instruments like periodontal scalers or curettes, they will scrape the plaque, calculus deposits, or stains from your teeth. The dentist is also able to access below the gum margin using specialized tools.
  • Alternatively, if your dentist chooses a modern scaling technique using ultrasonic scalers, a vibrating metal tip chips away tartar and plaque from the tooth surface while a integrated water spray flushes the periodontal pocket.
  • If you exhibit signs of subgingival calculus deposits, your periodontal pocket (the gap between your gum and teeth) will be cleaned thoroughly.
  • Your dentist then smooths the potentially exposed tooth roots (due to gum recession) with a scaling instrument. This smoothing is called root planing and helps your gums reattach to your teeth.
  • If you showcase symptoms of a volatile or rapidly progressing gum disease, you may be recommended additional treatment and possibly surgery to retrieve the health of your gums and teeth.
  • You may be put on oral antibiotics for a few days following the procedure to ensure a faster recovery.

What can you expect after teeth scaling?

Recovery from teeth scaling usually only takes a few days. Immediately after the teeth scaling procedure, your mouth may feel sore and sensitive. Some patients have reported complaints of swelling and increased bleeding following professional dental scaling. However, these minor symptoms should subside on its own after a few days. Sensitivity after tooth cleaning is another common manifestation, but a desensitizing toothpaste can greatly ease this discomfort. You may be called in for a follow-up visit after your dental scaling to examine the gum health.

Here are some aftercare tips to help you recover faster:

  • To prevent infection, you will be prescribed a mouthwash. Use it religiously as recommended.
  • Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly after teeth scaling. Cleaning isn’t enough, you should develop a habit of maintaining your new-found clean teeth.
  • Avoid using tobacco products as they can deteriorate your oral health further.
  • Limit starchy or high sugar foods to minimize tartar and plaque build-up.
  • Incorporate a balanced diet into your daily routine.

Benefits of teeth scaling

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), tooth scaling introduces a wide range of benefits for you and your oral health:

  • Decreases the incidence of cavities and tooth decay.
  • Removes stains and surface irregularities that are deemed undesirable
  • Prevents bad breath or halitosis by hindering the plaque build-up process
  • Reduces the risk of gum diseases, either from commencing or progressing
  • Offers a preventive dental procedure that helps you save money on restorative dentistry

Nearly half of the American adults have gum disease, according to some reliable sources. This indicates a problem that has assimilated into our daily lives and we should do something to stop it, immediately! This is why you should dedicate your time to scheduling a tooth scaling appointment knowing all of the benefits you can acquire from this practice. Confused about which nearby dentist to go to for a tooth scaling? Check out 4Smile and make the process of dentist hunting fun and easy!

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