What is a ‘dental clean?’
A dental clean is the technical name for a ‘scale and polish’. A scale and polish is a procedure carried out to remove the build-up of plaque and calculus on the teeth.
This type of cleaning is one that many people are familiar with and is designed to leave you with nice, clean teeth.
If, however, you show early signs of gum disease then you may require what is called a ‘deep clean’ or ‘periodontal therapy’. This is undertaken to treat the signs of gingivitis (bleeding gums) which is caused by plaque and tartar deposits. If this is left untreated then the infection will work its way down to the roots of your tooth. This can then form a ‘gum pocket’ which is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
The deep clean involves a ‘scale’ and something called ‘root planing’. Basically, this means removing this infection and smoothing the surface of the roots.
The ordinary clean is the one that dental hygienist most frequently perform.
The ‘Scale and Polish’ Procedure
A scale and polish is a very common dental treatment which is carried out as a form of oral preventative medicine. In other words, it is designed to form part of a dental hygiene plan with the aim of keeping your teeth clean and healthy. Along with tooth brushing, flossing and healthy eating can help to reduce the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
So, why do you need a ‘scale and polish?’
Your teeth come under constant attack from the starches and sugars present in our food which are released as we eat. When this combines with plaque – the sticky bacterial film that forms on the teeth over time, it produces an acid which is harmful to our teeth.
This plaque forms on the surface of and between our teeth and can also affect the gum line. If is not removed then it will harden and form calculus or ‘tartar’ – a yellow or brown mineral deposit which causes the teeth to have a rough or ‘crusty’ appearance. This makes them vulnerable to further plaque attacks.
Plaque can corrode the teeth over time which causes cavities and tooth decay as well as bad breath. If it leads to calculus formation, especially around the gums then gingivitis can occur. The danger with this is that it can lead to the more serious periodontal gum disease.
A scale and polish can remove plaque and leave your teeth feeling nice and smooth. This will also prevent bacteria sticking to them (which they are able to, on teeth with a rough surface) which can lead to the build-up of calculus, which will help to prevent gum disease.
If any of these happen to your teeth then it could lead to you losing a tooth or even several teeth.
What does a scale and polish involve?
The ‘scale’ part of the procedure involves the dental hygienist using an ultrasonic device which emits vibrations to loosen large areas of calculus. It will spray water at the same time which washes away the debris. This procedure can also be used to remove superficial staining of the teeth.
Following this the dental hygienist may use a series of hand tools called scalers and curettes to remove smaller deposits as well as smoothing the surface of the teeth. Your dentist will use these to scrape away these deposits.
Once your teeth are beautifully smooth the dentist will then give them a polish. This means using a handpiece with a soft, spinning rubber cup which is applied to your teeth. A special paste called a ‘prophylaxis’ is inserted into this cup and together with the spinning cup, will give your teeth a shiny appearance.
As a final flourish the dentist may apply fluoride. Fluoride is good at strengthening the teeth as well as providing essential minerals to any teeth that have been eroded by acid.
Does scale and polish hurt?
A scale & polish tends to be painless with many patients reporting ‘tickling’ or ‘scraping’ sensations. It is likely to be painful if you have sore gums or badly worn teeth. However, a topical numbing gel or local anesthetic can be used to numb the areas of concern.