Scale & Polish - What Is It and Why Do You Need It?

What is a Scale & Polish – Your Dental Guide

Brushing and flossing your teeth every day is crucial for maintaining a healthy mouth. But even the best oral hygiene routine can’t prevent plaque build up completely.

Here, we’ll cover why professional dental checkups that include a scale and polish are key to keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

Woman checking her teeth in the mirror after procedure.

What Is Dental Plaque?

Dental plaque is a sticky film, packed with bacteria, that builds in the crevices of teeth and hard to clean areas. The bacteria in plaque feed on the food and drinks you consume and produce acids that harm tooth enamel and damage gums. Because plaque can be tough to see, it is important to have a professional dental check-up every 6 months.

If plaque isn’t removed consistently, it can harden and turn into tartar. Since tartar is bonded to enamel, it requires a scale and polish to be removed.

What Is a Scale and Polish?

To remove plaque build-up and tartar, your dentist may recommend a scale and polish. This professional cleaning is an efficient way to remove tartar, protect your enamel, and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Scaling involves scraping away built-up plaque and tartar – a process that can only be completed by a dental hygienist or dentist. Polishing involves cleaning and gently buffing the teeth, leaving them smoother and brighter. Together, these steps can greatly improve overall oral health and prevent future dental issues.

What Are the Benefits of a Scale and Polish?

Along with brighter, healthier looking teeth, a scale and polish offer many important benefits:

  • Reduced Cavities – The bacteria in plaque produce acids that create a low pH that can wear away tooth enamel and cause decay. Removing this plaque and tartar helps prevent cavities and keeps enamel healthy.
  • Prevent Gingivitis – If plaque bacteria accumulates, it can inflame the gums and lead to gingivitis.
  • Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease – It might be surprising, but keeping your mouth healthy can help keep your entire body healthier. Studies have proven a connection between good overall health and proper oral hygiene. Gum disease and gingivitis have been linked to negative effects on the cardiovascular system, making it important to maintain proper oral hygiene and see your dentist for a scale and polish every 6 months.
  • Prevent Bad Breath – A scale and polish can significantly improve bad breath by getting rid of the source of it – the bacteria that create the stink.
  • Save Money – Keeping up with your oral health can prevent a variety of future dental issues. Avoiding fillings, implants, crowns, and tooth extractions can save a significant amount of money.

Teeth cleaning and polishing.

What To Expect During a Scale and Polish

A scale and polish are performed by your dentist or hygienist. Appointments generally take between 30 and 40 minutes. Overall, the procedure is quick, beneficial, painless, and extremely effective.

Traditionally the first part of the scale and polish was scraping, a process that removes tartar and plaque deposits. This typically involved an ultrasonic scaler to remove the majority of the build-up. Particularly stubborn deposits were then removed with a special handheld tool.

The next step was then polishing the teeth to leave them shiny, bright, and smooth. Along with looking whiter and healthier, polishing the teeth helps gently buff away rough areas and minor imperfections. Smoothing these areas can help discourage the future build-up of plaque and tartar.

We have now mostly moved away from the traditional approach to scale and polishes after we purchased the “EMS Airflow” air-polishing machines. These have revolutionised the way we look after our patients. We start with the air polish which we liken to a jet wash for your driveway- it removes 90% of all plaque and soft calculus with no discomfort whatsoever, it’s like a spa for your mouth! Then if there are any particularly stubborn areas we go with the traditional scaling tools to clean them. Overall our patients have a much more pleasant experience- the water coming out is even warm so no more cold sensitivity during cleaning!

How Often Should I Have a Scale and Polish?

Ask your dentist for a personal recommendation on how often you should get a scale and polish. Generally, it is recommended to have a scale and polish every 6 months.

Tips for Preventing Plaque

Along with regular dental checkups, here are other ways to prevent plaque buildup:

  • Brush twice a day, for two minutes each time
  • Floss every day
  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • Limit or avoid sugary foods, sticky candies, and soft drinks
  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride
  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
  • Use a mouthwash (ask your dentist for recommendations)
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or as needed

Woman with perfect teeth smiling.

Have Questions or Want to Schedule a Scale and Polish?

A good oral hygiene routine and a regular scale and polish are both essential for maintaining a healthy smile.

If you have more questions or would like to set up an appointment for comprehensive dental care, please reach out to us today. A scale and polish treatment is the ideal way to keep your teeth and gums healthy and your smile looking bright.

Dr. Jack Brazel: Specialising in general dentistry, Invisalign, and cosmetic procedures, Dr. Brazel is committed to delivering exceptional dental care focusing on aesthetic outcomes.