When plague is allowed to remain on teeth for long periods of time, it eventually hardens into a substance called tartar. It is impossible to remove tartar with your normal routine of brushing and flossing; its removal requires the professional help of a dentist and their staff. Light tartar can be cleaned off with dental tools in your routine hygiene cleanings. But heavier deposits of tartar, which can reach below the gumline, will require a periodontal cleaning known as scaling.
What is scaling?
Scaling is a deep-cleaning technique that uses a special instrument to remove tartar from your teeth both above and below the gumline. It differs from a regular cleaning in two ways: 1.) it cleans below the gumline, and 2.) it requires a different type of instrument to do the cleaning. We highly recommend having scaling down when it is indicated, because allowing tartar to persist: greatly contributes to tooth decay, causes gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and can contribute to periodontal disease. We use a high-speed ultrasonic handpiece that vibrates 30,000 times per second. This high speed revolution literally breaks up the tartar and scrapes it from your teeth. If you have scaling performed, you may feel some pressure but the procedure itself is painless. After the scaling is completed, Dr. Ertl will polish your teeth via a related procedure called planing. Polishing will smooth rough surfaces on your teeth where bacteria are more likely to get a foothold and accumulate. After scaling and planing are completed, your teeth are much more resistant to plaque, and your gums will revert to their normal and healthy state.
What can I expect from a scaling procedure?
Dr. Ertl may begin the procedure by exploring your mouth with a non-motorized dental instrument, then he’ll proceed with the scaling using an ultrasonic hand piece that will clean your teeth above and below the gumline. (Before beginning, your gums will be numbed. However, if you harbor deep anxiety about dental procedures, then be sure to ask Dr. Ert. about oral sedation options and if they may be right for you.) When the scaling is completed, he’ll do the planing (described above).
Why would I need scaling?
Some people have gums that bleed easily. Healthy gums do not bleed easily; bleeding is almost always a sign of gingivitis (gum inflammation). The inflammation occurs because your gums are fighting off bacterial infection from plaque and tartar, at or below the gumline. If Dr. Ertl or his staff noted tartar buildup on your teeth during a routine dental exam, then he may recommend scaling and planing for you. If the procedure is declined, Dr. Ertl will counsel you on the possible consequences, which include: 1.) the gingivitis progressing into periodontal disease (which results in bone loss around the teeth), or 2.) the tartar contributing to future tooth decay (which may require fillings or crowns).
What are the benefits of scaling?
We thought you’d never ask! By removing the tartar, we will help prevent further damage to your teeth, gums and even the bone surrounding your teeth. Because tartar is a build-up of plaque, and plaque is formed from bacteria, when we remove the tartar we drastically reduce the inflammation of your gums as well as the threat of future cavities or periodontal disease. Scaling can literally reverse gingivitis and halt the progression to more serious periodontal disease. Some people are simply prone to tartar build up, while it occurs in other people due to improper oral hygiene. Dr. Ertl will counsel you to determine which may be the case, and to improve your oral hygiene if that is indicated.
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