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Cleaning, Scaling and Polishing

Plaque is a thin bacterial film which is known to adhere to teeth, tongue and gums. Various bacteria may be present in plaque and it is essential to mechanically remove the layer of plaque since infective bacteria present in the plaque can cause gingivitis (inflamed gums), tooth decay and their sequel. This is the reason why you are advised to brush your teeth twice every day.

Cleaning, Scaling and Polishing

Tartar or calculus is the un-removed hardened or solidified plaque which has become a visible mass. This is yellowish, brown or black in color and can be present along the gums and on the surface of the teeth (supragingival calculus). It may also get deposited below gums (on roots of teeth) as subgingival calculus.  A dentist is required to intervene at this stage as only professional scaling or cleaning can remove this. Tartar control toothpastes can also be used by people who are prone to developing tartar.

Cleaning, Scaling and Polishing

Professional cleaning of teeth is known as oral prophylaxis or scaling. Scaling and cleaning are two words with similar meanings. Scaling is usually a term used by qualified dentist whereas cleaning is what the common person would say. This is a very simple process of completely removing plaque and tartar deposited on the borders of our gums attached to the tooth surface.
Objectives of Scaling
  • The most important objective is to restore the health of gums by completely removing plaque and tartar
  • Scaling removes such elements that cannot be removed by regular brushing
  • Scaling also helps keep teeth disease free and prevents bad odor breath

Scaling is needed when any of the following conditions exists:

  • Scaling is needed when there is plaque and tartar deposition on the inner surface of lower front teeth
  • Scaling is needed if there is bleeding from gums during brushing, eating and especially when we wake up early in the morning
  • If there is swelling, irritation and pain in gums, then scaling is needed
  • Scaling is also needed if there is stickiness in teeth
  • Scaling is needed if there is bad odor from mouth
  • If there are stains on teeth and loosening of teeth from gums then scaling should be done

The steps involved in Scaling
In regular dental practice, depending on the severity of tartar, scaling is done in two ways:

  • Hand Scaling  ( By hand instruments)
  • Mechanical Scaling ( Ultrasonic Machine)

Now a days, very few doctors follow hand scaling as it is very time consuming, less effective, outdated and requires more effort.

On the contrary, Ultrasonic scaling is associated with light touch and light pressure on the tooth surface with a constant motion. The vibration energy produced by the ultrasonic machine along with continuous water flow helps remove plaque, tartar, stains and other deposits. This method is very quick, easy and more effective. Ultrasonic scaling is a very effective and safe method as there are fewer traumas to tissues and less discomfort after its completion.

Side effects of this type of Ultrasonic scaling

  • It cannot be used in heart patients
  • It cannot be used in patients suffering from lung diseases and ear, nose and throat infections
  • It cannot be used in patients suffering from diseases which are transferable even by touch, inhalation, exhalation and aerosols
  • It cannot be used in patients having few artificial teeth as it may lead to the roughness of tooth surface, loosening and sometimes total loss


Once the scaling or cleaning sittings of the teeth are done and over, polishing is a must to smoothen the tooth surfaces.

Why is it compulsory?

  • Polishing is mandatory to prevent future deposition of plaque
  • Polishing makes your teeth look amazingly shining and healthy

Methods of polishing

Polishing is usually done by using a hand-piece attached to a small machine called micromotor with a soft rounded cup (called as polishing cup) attached to its head. The polishing material is like a hard substance having soothing smell, replenishing taste and light grayish color. The paste is applied with cotton on tooth surface and the cup smoothly polishes it via vibration energy.

Problems associated with polishing

  • There can be damage to teeth as hard polish material reduces enamel layer
  • Damage to cosmetic fillings and artificial teeth is also possible at this time
  • Improper handling of material and machine by untrained personnel can cause trauma to gums, discomfort and other complications

Conclusion and important key message to follow in daily routine

  • Gum problems can be prevented by immediately consulting your dentist or doctor if there is bleeding from the gums for past 15-30 days associated with a bad odor
  • Visiting your dentist at least once in six months






1) What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that develops on the surface of the teeth and contains millions of germ and infection causing bacteria. Whenever you eat, the bacteria in the plaque uses the sugar and acid in the food to destroy the layer of enamel on the tooth. The plaque that remains post brushing and flossing procedure, further hardens and develops into tartar. Over a period of time, brushing becomes difficult on the hardened tooth giving rise to complications like swelling of gums, infection, bleeding gums, redness of gums and tooth decay.


2) What is tartar?

Also known as calculus, it is the plaque that has hardened on the surface of your teeth. It can also sometimes develop underneath the gum line often causing irritation in the gum and he teeth area. If not treated in time, it can further cause problems like cavities and gum infection, threatening the overall health of your gums and teeth. Unlike plaque, which forms a colourless film on the surface of the teeth, tartar can easily be detected as it a mineral build up and can easily be seen forming over the gum line.


3) Can plaque & tartar be prevented?

With a proper dental care and oral hygiene, plaque and tartar can easily be prevented from harming the overall health of your teeth and gums. Plaque carries millions of bacteria that can damage the enamel and result in cavities. But if removed regularly from the mouth and teeth, you can easily evade the problem of gum disease, infection or tooth decay. If plaque stays on longer, it develops into tartar over a period of time. Therefore, brush and floss regularly, avoid consumption of sugary and starchy foods and visit your dentist regularly to catch on any early signs of the problem.


4) What causes plaque?

If you eat a lot of sugary and high on acid kind of foods, it is quite possible you might have plaque. Plaque is nothing but a formation of a sticky colourless film on the surface of the teeth due to the bacteria that are naturally present in the mouth. When the food particles left inside the mouth release acid, plaque forms on the teeth and on the surface of the gum line. Another cause for plaque could be improper or lack or oral hygiene. Not brushing properly or missing out on flossing gives opportunity for the bacteria to multiply and spread inside the mouth.


5) How can plaque & tartar be treated?

Following a proper brushing and flossing regime will help you keep the problem of tartar and plaque miles away from affecting the health of your teeth and gums. Tiny food particles or excess of sugary and starchy stuff consumed, gives rise to bacteria in the mouth, which cause a thin biofilm to develop on the surface of the teeth called plaque. Further wear and tear of enamel of the tooth causes tartar which ultimately gives rise to tooth decay and cavity. Keep your teeth clean, use a fluorine based toothpaste and mouth wash and regularly visit your dentist to avoid any damage to your teeth and gums and keep all dental problems away.

Complete Oral Care

Dabur Meswak, a herbal toothpaste with pure extract of Miswak plant whose astringent and anti-bacterial properties help reduce tooth decay, fight plaque and prevent gum diseases.