If you’re like many people who brush and floss regularly, you probably don’t worry much about cavities. But there are times when even following this oral care method is not enough to prevent dental issues. Hardened plaque build-up which results in gum inflammation can still occur.
This hardened plaque called calculus or tartar can begin in areas that you have inadequately brushed. It then creates an area that is more difficult to clean and continues to build. Your brush and floss unfortunately cannot remove it and it is time for what is called teeth scaling and cleaning.
Your dentist or hygienist will use instruments such as ultrasonic scalers or hand held scalers and curettes to remove the calculus from your teeth. It can be quite a sensitive procedure but regular scaling and cleaning makes it easier as there is less tartar to be removed.
So how does this treatment work?
Removing plaque (a soft, sticky mixture of bacteria, waste products from bacteria, and some food debris) with regular brushing and flossing prevents irritation of the gums or gingivitis. Similarly, scaling the teeth removes calculus or tartar that irritates the gums and bone near teeth (periodontal areas), and prevents inflammation over time which is known as periodontitis (commonly called gum disease).
Why should you have your teeth scaled?
Gum disease can show as bleeding gums, receeding gums, bad breath, loose and moving teeth or obvious chunks of discoloured tartar. But sometimes it isn’t obvious. Smokers for example may not bleed as readily from the gums but are certainly at high risk for gum disease. Sometimes gum “pockets” hide the fact that under your gums the bone is shrinking due to gum disease. These pockets also make cleaning more difficult and are signs of progressing gum disease. Some people may be genetically predisposed to be at risk and can have rapidly progressing gum disease from very little calculus or tartar.
How often does scaling need to be done?
Your dentist will discuss how often you need to have your teeth scaled judging by the various factors involved and may alter this over time as your own oral hygiene habits change. Sometimes your dentist may recommend seeing a specialist in gums and areas around teeth called a periodontist.
Following a proper teeth cleaning procedure can do wonders not just for your “pearly whites” but also for your efforts to prevent serious health problems. Studies are making the connection between dental care and overall physical health; a University of Bristol study* showed that bacteria in the mouth and gums may enter the bloodstream, combine with platelets, create blood clots and contribute to heart disease. Another reason to ensure you brush, floss and get your teeth checked regularly!