Scaling is the term used by dentists to remove the hardened deposits that form on your teeth. These deposits, known as “calculus” or “tartar”, form when the natural calcium in our saliva mixes with the bacteria in our mouth and food debris. Starting off initially as a soft mix called “plaque”, it hardens over time and becomes difficult to remove, causing our gums to bleed and teeth to become shaky. At that point “root planing” is required. This more focused procedure to remove the hardened deposits on the root surface below the gum margin is commonly referred to as gum treatment.
How Does Tartar Form?
Tartar begins to form within minutes from the last time you brush your teeth.They first appear as a thin layer of soft deposits known as “plaque”, which is a combination of small residual food particles and your saliva, along with the bacteria found naturally occurring in your mouth. As they accumulate, they harden causing a bad taste and the breath to smell less fresh. If left unchecked, it will lead to bleeding gums, loss of the bone surrounding and supporting the tooth leading eventually to tooth loss.
What is the Process of Scaling (Tooth Cleaning)
The procedure takes around 30 minutes. A vibrating device known as an ultrasonic scaler is used to loosen the hardened deposits. Though generally painless, you may experience sensitivity during the procedure. Sometimes, the dentist uses an instrument known as a hand scaler to manually remove the deposits of calculus (tartar). This is done if the deposits are below the gums to enable a more thorough, yet gentler clean. After scaling, the surface of the tooth is polished to remove stains and to smoothen the surface. An air jet is then used to spray off residual soft deposits below the gums.
Why Does Your Dentist Sometimes Apply Fluoride to Your Teeth?
Fluoride has long been known to prevent tooth decay and is added into toothpaste as well as to our water supply. However there is a second major use of fluoride, and that is to desensitize teeth. While scaling is very important in removing the bacteria plaque which adheres to the tooth, it exposes the underlying “scrubbed” surface which feels raw due to the presence of nerve endings. The use of fluoride to cover these surfaces will reduce post-treatment sensitivity and assist the tooth to regain a natural barrier.
Why do spaces appear in between my teeth and what can be done?
Our teeth are in general shaped like a “spade”. As such there is usually a triangular or pyramidal space between two teeth which are filled with gums that when healthy appear light pink. If we do not clean our teeth sufficiently, the deposits of soft bacteria plaque and hardened calculus will cause the underlying jawbone to be lost (resorbed), and the gums to recede. In this case we will need to either grow back the gums (which is not an easy task) or to mask the appearance by slightly trimming the sides of the teeth followed either by using a clear aligner or veneers to close the gap.
What happens if my gums get worse
Some patients leave it till late before seeking treatment or are either genetically prone or faced with an aggressive form of gum disease. While dentists will still try to help you keep your teeth through more aggressive cleaning, sometimes “gum surgery” is required to clean the roots or the teeth may need to be stabilised through a procedure termed “splinting”. Note that in some cases, extraction may be the only choice but rest assured, with modern scientific knowledge and technology, the bone that has been lost can be regenerated and the missing teeth replaced with implants.