What is Teeth Scaling?

Scaling is a dental procedure that is used to deep clean built-up plaque and tartar from the teeth, especially that which has formed below the point where your teeth meet your gums. In contrast to regular dental cleanings, which mostly take place on the surface of the teeth above the gums, scaling goes into the pockets between the teeth and gums that have been created by gum disease. It is possible that during the course of a routine dental visit, particularly if quite a bit of time has passed since your last visit, your dental hygienist and/or dentist may determine that a scaling procedure is in order to improve the health of your gums as well as to prevent tooth decay.


When Scaling is Necessary

Scaling becomes necessary when the plaque and tartar have built up to the extent that they have caused gum disease. When gums become diseased, they are no longer able to remain firmly adhered to the teeth; as they begin to pull away, plaque can begin to form in small pockets between your teeth and gums. If your dentist sees that these pockets have reached depths of 4 millimeters or more, she or he will recommend scaling to improve the health of your teeth and gums before gum disease is able to advance further. Not only does scaling allow your gums to heal and reattach to your teeth, preventing further issues, it can also prevent the affected teeth from decaying, which can cause a whole host of other problems.


What to Expect During a Scaling Visit

Like a routine dental cleaning, scaling involves cleaning plaque and tartar from the teeth. Because the build-up that is addressed during a scaling visit is more extensive, so too is the cleaning. Your dentist or dental hygienist will use special tools like a scaler, curette, and even an ultrasonic instrument that can help break up large pieces of plaque. She or he will get into the small pockets that have formed between your teeth and gums to break down and root out the plaque that has taken hold there.


Because this procedure can be uncomfortable, you may opt to be given local anesthetic. This is something that you should discuss with your dentist both before and during the procedure. You should also plan more than one visit, as scaling is usually done in quadrants or halves. While it is possible to do a dental scaling in one visit, it is not typically recommended due to considerations surrounding both time and comfort.


After the scaling has been completed, it is possible that you will also need to undergo a root planing procedure, during which your dentist will use special instruments to smooth out or make flat the root of the tooth, thereby allowing the tooth to merge once more with the gums.



It is not uncommon for patients to experience swelling, soreness, and even some bleeding following a scaling procedure. Your dentist can recommend some over the counter remedies like desensitizing toothpastes and even mouthwashes to help ease the discomfort. She or he will also talk to you about the importance of maintain good oral hygiene going forward to prevent these issues from reoccurring.


It is also probable that your dentist will want to schedule a follow-up visit to check the progress made during the course of the scaling procedure, as well as to determine if any further action is necessary. It is important to follow through with these steps to ensure that you’re on the road to recovery. While treating gum disease can seem troublesome and inconvenient, it is not an issue that resolves on its own, so it’s best to treat it early and thoroughly to prevent more serious problems later.


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