We here at Norwich Family & Cosmetic Dentistry believe that knowledge is power. Knowing more about good oral health practices can lead to not only a brighter smile but also a healthier overall life. Which is why we constantly remind our patients that one of the best preventative measures against poor dental hygiene is scheduling regular teeth cleanings every 6 months. But did you know that not all cleanings are created equal? Some individuals actually need a more in-depth cleaning than others, and this is where dental scaling comes into the conversation.
What is Dental Scaling?
Dental scaling is a process that your dentist uses to remove excessive plaque buildup, tartar (calculus), and biofilm from the surfaces of your teeth. An ultrasonic instrument is typically used for sonic vibrations to remove the scale and tartar buildup on your teeth as well as below the gum line. After the ultrasonic part is completed, the dentist or hygienist may use a hand instrument scraper-like device to reach any surfaces not reached by the ultrasonic method.
How is it Different From a Routine Cleaning?
Usually referred to as a “deep cleaning”, scaling differs from the typical cleaning process in a number of ways. It is a non-surgical procedure done as a routine part of your professional cleaning at your visit every six months. In the event that there are apparent signs or symptoms of gum disease or periodontal disease, your dentist will perform dental scaling as a treatment. Patients that put off scheduling their bi-annual cleaning appointments are at higher risk of oral health conditions going unnoticed. When inflammation of gum tissue and the interior of the mouth from built-up plaque and tartar goes untreated for too long, it can drastically affect the condition of your teeth and the underlying supporting bone structure. Thus requiring dental scaling to prevent further damage.
Ideally, ordinary cleanings are recommended every 6 months. However, depending on the severity of your gum disease, it may be necessary to descale your teeth up to four times a year. This will help to maintain the status of your condition and prevent it from progressing further. If your dentist has determined that you have periodontal disease, he or she will perform dental scaling and may possibly recommend periodontal surgery; which can be much more invasive.
How Do I Know if I Might Require Dental Scaling?
As always, the best prevention to needing future extensive dental work is a great home hygiene routine that you stick with daily. But even the most avid brusher and flosser can still develop an oral health condition. Until your next visit to the dentist, there are a few things you should personally keep an eye on. Since gum disease can be relatively painless, it’s important to note if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Receding gums that move away from the tooth
- Red, tender, swollen or bleeding gums
- Halitosis (bad breath) or a bad taste in your mouth
- Visible pus around the gums
- Loose teeth or shifting teeth
Healthy gum tissue fits snugly against each tooth, but when plaque buildup is present, the area around the gums can be affected, as well as deep pockets from where bacteria dwell. Scaling keeps tartar, plaque, and bacteria from getting underneath the gumline so your gums can properly heal and fit more snugly against the tooth. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact your dentist to schedule an examination as soon as you can.
What to Expect Afterwards?
Most patients handle dental scaling fairly well, as it is not a significantly painful procedure. You may be advised to stay away from certain foods or drinks that can aggravate your teeth and gums after scaling, and your dentist will possibly recommend using a desensitizing toothpaste. Though there is no real ‘recovery period’, it is likely that you will be asked to schedule a follow-up visit in 2-4 months to evaluate your oral status. The majority of patients will begin to notice a significant decrease in red, swollen and bleeding gums and even see that their gums are more pink and firm after scaling.
The key to maintaining ideal dental health and avoiding future oral complications is to not ignore the warning signs. What may seem like a little light gum bleeding could potentially evolve into something that can not only be uncomfortable but also costly. Stay educated on ways you can prevent gum disease and keep a healthy, vibrant smile! One way we like to keep our patients informed is through our Facebook page, so be sure to connect with us!