Importance of Professional Dental Cleaning (A.K.A Scaling & Polishing)
Do you ever wonder why it is necessary to see your dentist for a regular checkup and professional dental cleaning once every six months – even though you have been diligently brushing your teeth? To most, going to the dentist for a professional cleaning seems like a chore, especially since it seems that you could maintain good dental hygiene on your own. Perhaps you might think that routine dental checks and cleaning appointments is a luxury, an excellent thing to have, but not something the average person needs. This article hopes to explain why it is essential to keep your dental appointments even if there are no apparent symptoms.
What is dental plaque and tartar?
Dental plaque accumulates on the surfaces of our teeth and gum line, and it is highly adhesive. When left undisturbed for some time, bacteria and their by-products either works to weaken the tooth(dental caries) or cause your gums to get ulcerated, causing an infection (gingivitis/periodontitis). In comparison to dental plaque, tartar (or calculi) is hard and tenacious. Tartar is calcified dental plaque, and it usually is formed when dental plaque is not cleaned away thoroughly, allowing it to accumulate and harden. While dental plaque can be brushed and flossed away, tartar cannot. Studies have shown that it can take a short time of 2 weeks for undisturbed plaque to harden.
Hence, regular trips to your dentist are important because your dentist helps to remove the dirt that otherwise cannot be removed by regular flossing and brushing. Moreover, your dentist is trained in cleaning difficult areas for you to clean and is responsible for ensuring that your gum and dental health is well maintained by doing an examination every six months. Cleaning also allows your dentist to detect any dental caries if present, and suggest procedures to manage diseases promptly before it gets worse.
What happens during scaling and polishing?
Scaling and polishing involve the physical removal (or debridement) of dirt, i.e. tartar and plaque. The plaque removal helps clean the infected sites and keep the bacterial load low, thereby giving the ulcerated gums a clean environment to heal well. Scaling and polishing appointments usually take 20 to 35 minutes if the gum is relatively healthy with minimal dirt. However, if there is a significant amount of tartar/plaque, appointments may be longer. In some cases, if the dentist reckons it would be more beneficial and comfortable for the patient, cleaning appointments may be split into two visits. They may even require a second round of deep scaling to remove residual tartar once the gum inflammation subsides.
There are instances where the severity of inflammation may require more than just a routine cleaning; your dentist may have to do a root planning procedure to ensure the depth of the periodontal pockets is being debrided thoroughly to allow the inflammation to resolve.
In any case, a regular six-monthly visit to the dentist is as essential as a routine health screening, as this ensures dental diseases can be detected early or even reversed if caught early enough.