Scale and Polish

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What are dental cleanings and why have them?

Dental cleanings (also known as a scale and polish) involve removing plaque and tartar deposits that have built up on the teeth over time.

Your teeth are continually bathed in saliva which contains calcium and other substances which help strengthen and protect the teeth.

While this is a good thing, it also means that we tend to get a build-up of calcium deposits on the teeth.

Hard plaque is tooth coloured and can easily be mistaken as part of the tooth and can vary from brown to black in colour.

Unfortunately, you are unable to remove hard plaque and tartar from your teeth at home (using a toothbrush), and this is why a professional dental cleaning is recommended.


How are dental cleanings carried out?

A scale and polish involves using specialized instruments to gently remove the deposits without harming your teeth.
An ultrasonic instrument is a commonly used instrument which uses tickling vibrations to remove the pieces of tartar, whilst spraying a fine mist of water to wash away the debris.

Fine hand tools

Once the larger pieces of tartar are gone, the hygienist may switch to finer hand tools to remove smaller deposits in between the teeth and to smooth the tooth surfaces.


Once all of the tooth surfaces are smooth, the hygienist will polish your teeth using a slow speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup or a nylon bristle brush. The brush or cup is dipped in a prophylaxis paste and applied on the teeth for a smooth finish. You can choose to have an Air Abrasion Polishing.

The photo below is an example of a scale and polish, which has been carried out by our hygienist in Southampton at Ferry Dental Centre.

Do dental cleanings hurt?

Most people find that cleanings are painless and many find it a pleasant experience!

But be sure to let your hygienist know if you find things are getting too uncomfortable for your liking. Painful cleaning experiences can be caused by a number of things: a rough dentist or hygienist, exposed dentine, or sore gum tissues.

In case you may have had painful cleaning experiences in the past, switching to a gentle hygienist can often make all the difference. You could also choose to be numbed. If you find the scaling a bit uncomfortable because the gums or your teeth are sensitive, topical numbing gel can be used or proper local anesthetic.