Scale and Clean
A dental scale is the most common nonsurgical way to treat and prevent gum disease, which is also known as periodontitis.
Dental cleanings involve removing plaque (soft, sticky, bacteria infested film) and tartar (calculus) deposits that have built up on the teeth over time.
There are two types of scaling instruments and your dentist may use both:
Scaling with hand-held instruments. Your dentist will use a dental scaler to manually remove (scale) the tartar from the teeth.
Scaling with ultrasonic instruments. Ultrasonic scaling instruments clean tartar from the teeth with a vibrating metal tip that chips off the tartar and a water spray to wash it away and keep the tip cool.
Once the tartar has been removed from under the gum line and teeth, the dentist will polish your teeth. Polishing is done using a slow speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis paste – a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is scooped up into the cup and spun around on the teeth to make them shiny smooth.
Your dentist may also apply fluoride. Your teeth are coated in fluoride foam for 30 seconds. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth since the acids from bacteria in dental tartar and plaque will have weakened the surfaces. It is best not to eat, drink or rinse for 30 minutes after fluoride has been applied.