Gum disease is the biggest causes of tooth loss, and tooth decay is present in virtually all adult mouths. To some extent, you can keep them at bay by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash, but there will be areas of your mouth that these methods alone will struggle to reach. In these recesses, sticky films of plaque collect, gathering and trapping bacteria.
Left unchecked for too long, plaque can harden into tartar — rough porous deposits that coat the teeth and can penetrate below the gum line. Both plaque and tartar enable bacteria to attack the teeth, causing tooth decay and potentially severe gum disease. The only way to remove tartar and plaque from problem areas is by visiting the hygienist for a two part treatment called scaling and polishing.
Scaling is a process in which the hygienist removes any tartar from your teeth using an electric scaler. This vibrates at high speed while emitting a jet of water to break up the tartar. The hygienist will also clean around and under the gumline using a range of handheld metal tools that allow them to remove harder to reach deposits.
Polishing uses a rotating electric brush and toothpaste to give your teeth a final deep clean. This leaves your teeth feeling clean and shiny but it also helps to smooth out any rough patches on your teeth that plaque may collect on in the future. The hygienist may use a fluoride toothpaste during polishing for extra protection against plaque.
Scaling and polishing is typically painless, although some patients report some discomfort during the scaling stage. If you keep regular appointments with the hygienist, however, you will not give plaque a chance to build up and your treatments are likely to be shorter and less invasive for you.
As well as scaling and polishing, the hygienist can apply topical treatments such as fluoride and sealants to your teeth. They can also advise you on best practice for keeping your teeth as plaque free as possible between appointments.