A dental cleaning should be performed at least every six months to remove plaque and tartar. Plaque left on teeth, either above or below the gumline lead to unhealthy gums, bone loss, and/or tooth decay. A routine dental cleaning should include scaling, root planing and polishing, along with a complete periodontal evaluation.
Scaling: this is the process of removing plaque and tartar from all tooth surfaces in a variety of methods, depending on the amount of plaque and tartar. Dental hygienists traditionally perform scaling by hand. However, new and advanced technology has lead to more modern methods such as ultrasonic scalers. This sophisticated tool allows dental cleanings to be performed more efficiently and in less time. To achieve best results, sometimes both ultrasonic and manual scaling methods are combined for dental cleanings.
This evaluation, normally performed by the dental hygienist, involves the measurement of the space, or “pocket” between the tooth and gum to the level of bone that surrounds each tooth. These measurements are recorded along with the presence of any gum recession and / or mobility for each tooth.
Root planing: this is the process of cleaning the area around each tooth called “periodontal pockets,” to treat and/or prevent gum disease.
Root planing is used to treat moderate to advanced gum disease. When the gum is inflamed, periodontal pockets become deeper and may lose connections to the bone surrounding each tooth. The deeper the pockets, the easier it is for plaque deposits to become trapped and worsen gum disease.
Root planing involves the use of both ultrasonic scalers and hand instruments to effectively remove both tartar and plaque from periodontal pockets. Depending on the degree of difficulty, root planing may take several appointments and a local anesthesia may be used to prevent discomfort.
Polishing: this is the last step in an adult prophylaxis. Using a slow speed hand piece and a rubber cup, a flavored fluoridated polishing paste is applied to the exposed surfaces of all teeth to remove any remaining plaque or stain. Air polishers can be used to remove any heavy or stubborn stains. This type of polishing works by spraying high-pressured water mixed with baking soda paste onto the surface of your teeth. This powered water washes away residue and plaque while baking soda removes stains.
Following dental cleaning, polishing and flossing, patients 18 and under may have a fluoride treatment performed.