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A guide to Scale and Polish

The problem with teeth is that they are not always perfectly shaped. So sometimes, when you are cleaning them, you do not always manage to reach into every nook and cranny. There always seems to be one spot that you overlook or that your brush just can’t quite get into. A point where your teeth overlap perhaps? Or right at the back, where food always seems to get stuck in a gap between your teeth...

This weak spot is exactly the sort of spot where the bacteria that attacks your teeth can gather. Throughout the day, plaque builds up all over your teeth. It is a sticky film, full of bacteria, that turns into acid when it reacts with the sugary foods you eat.

Normally, plaque is removed fairly easily by brushing our teeth with a good toothpaste. However, what happens to those hard to reach spots that our brush cannot get to? In these places, the plaque continues to build up until it hardens into calculus or tartar. This is much, much harder to remove.

Hopefully, we’ve just built up a picture of why a regular scale and polish from your dentist or oral hygienist is so important. No matter how much you brush, there will always be some plaque that you can’t reach and you need your dentist to remove. So if you are not visiting your dentist regularly, this plaque will build up and cause you much more significant problems in the future. These problems can include tooth decay, cavities and gum disease.

To put it simply, dentists are better equipped to remove plaque and stubborn calculus, as they have a number of tools at their disposal. Most people who have visited the dentist for a scale and polish will probably be fairly familiar with them.

First of all, your dentist will probably use and electric scaler to remove the toughest calculus. An electric, sometimes called an ultrasonic, scaler has a very fine tip that vibrates at high speeds. It also emits a jet of water. Together, the electric scaler and jet of water scrape away the calculus and clean away the debris lodged between the teeth.

Secondly, your dentist will also have a set of hand instruments which can be used to reach the more awkward spots around the teeth. The hand scalers are all different shapes and sizes, so they allow the dentist to clean the plaque from your teeth in fine detail.

The final aspect of the treatment is the polish. Your dentist will use a rotating brush and toothpaste to give your teeth a thorough clean. They will not only look cleaner in the mirror, but your teeth and mouth will also feel much cleaner too. To protect you against decay in the future, your dentist may use a fluoride toothpaste.

If you visit your dentist regularly, your scale and polish treatment will be short and painless as you will be regularly keeping plaque at bay – provided, of course, that you are always brushing and flossing your teeth effectively in between dental appointments. You may even begin to enjoy the treatment, as the final polish can tickle!

However, if you are not getting your teeth scaled and polished regularly, plaque will continue to build up. This will mean that your dentist has to work harder to remove it and the scaling can become uncomfortable. If calculus is allowed to build up around your gums and the roots of your teeth, this can require much more in-depth cleaning. It can be particularly uncomfortable and may require an anaesthetic, especially if your gums are already sensitive or suffering from gum disease.

You can find out more about the preventative steps that you can take to minimise plaque by talking to your dentist. Most dentists agree that some of the most effective dental work is usually done by the patient at home, in between appointments. So if you want to keep plaque at bay, consult your dentist about brushing techniques. They will be happy to demonstrate the right approach to you and discuss which type of brush will suit your teeth the best.

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