Scaling & Polishing

Bacteria which cause decay and gum disease survive on sugars which we consume. They colonise our teeth by forming a film around them. Over time, this form can grow thicker and may even calcify, turning into a chalky deposit called tartar. A similar process occurs as mineral rich “hard” water is repeatedly boiled in a kettle. Chalky scales form on the inner surface of the vessel.

In our mouths, tartar attract even more bacteria by virtue of their rough surfaces. That’s how they grow and they can really grow. Apart from the unsightly appearance, tartar causes gum inflammation which will eventually lead to gum disease and shaky teeth.

In the clinic, tartar is removed with a metal tip vibrating at ultrasonic frequencies. It’s called scaling because tartar is similar to scales in kettles and boilers. Bleeding is quite common during scaling especially when your gums are not healthy. Large chunks of tartar could be dislodged during scaling. Very often, bands of tartar are lodged beneath the level of your gums, so some discomfort may be experienced during or after scaling. The exposure of root surfaces (normally covered by gums) can also result in sensitivity. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s often manageable.

After scaling, polishing is done. Air polishing is discouraged due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we can still perform polishing with rubber cups and polishing paste. A second round of scaling may be required if you have too much tartar. Otherwise, just maintain your oral hygiene by seeing us once every 6 months.

While scaling is sufficient for most people, some situations may require additional procedures like “gum treatment”. Occasionally, gums may detach instead of being stripped away by gum disease. This results in gum pockets which trap bacteria and are impossible to clean with a toothbrush. Gum surgery may help remove pockets. Though the tooth may appear unsightly with roots exposed after the procedure, it becomes much easier to clean and may last a lot longer than it no gum surgery were done.

Sometimes, puffy-looking gums may persist even after scaling. The gum tissue may have become fibrous. A simple procedure to trim away the fibres will greatly improve both function and aesthetics.