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What is a scale & polish?

Most will be very familiar with this term as it is a very common treatment that nearly everyone undertakes at a dentist. Scale and polishes are carried out either by dentists or dental hygienists. (We will look at the role of dental hygienists specifically in a future blog.)

Scale and polish dentist tools and mouth wash

From a cleaning perspective the trouble with teeth is their shape. No matter how good we are at cleaning them there is always some area where we can’t reach or can’t get to, yet these areas still need to be cleaned also. These ‘inaccessible’ areas are ones where bacteria are most likely to build up and cause damage. Most bacteria (plaque) is removed by brushing, but in those areas where we can’t reach, the plaque eventually turns into tartar which is much more difficult to remove. Left untreated, this can cause many problems including gum issues, tooth decay or even teeth loss.

Essentially the above is a brief justification for why all people need to visit their dentist to have a scale and polish. Dentists have a few advantages over ordinary people for being able to clean the teeth thoroughly. (1) They can see and therefore reach more / all areas. (2) They have specialised equipment which is more powerful and precise than we find in our bathrooms.

Scale and polishes normally consist of the following steps:

Firstly, a type of electrical instrument called a scaler will be used to remove the toughest and most stubborn plaque and tartar. The scaler rotates at high speed and is usually combined with a water jet which ‘flushes’ the dirt away.

Secondly, the dentist will normally have a range of manual tools at their disposal to help complete this part of the job. These manual tools often come in different shapes and sizes, so practically every area or space can be accommodated for. This allows the dentist to remove from all areas of the teeth thus protecting your mouth and gum line to the best possible extent.

Thirdly, the procedure is concluded with a polish. This is similar to teeth cleaning as we all know it. A small circular brush rotates to clean all areas of the teeth, with toothpaste used as the polish.

After undergoing this treatment you will notice how white your teeth look and how much fresher your mouth feels. Scale and polishes are generally not painful experiences. The idea is you visit the dentist regularly (every 6 months) so anything that has built up is dealt with and then you are good to go until the next time. Problems can occur when teeth and not regularly professionally cleaned and so it can be harder work to scale the plaque or tartar away. This is when the procedure is likely to be a little uncomfortable.

As well as treating for conditions, dentists are present in an advisory and preventative role also. Next time you visit your dentist, talk to them about the best ways to keep your teeth clean in-between your scale and polish appointments.

While on our website have a look at how much a scale and polish and other treatments cost by visiting our fees page.

Get in touch with us today on 01827 664 35