Plaque that remains on teeth eventually hardens into tartar, which is virtually impossible to remove with brushing and flossing alone. Scaling is the cleaning procedure your hygienist here at Dental Associates of Delaware will use to remove tartar off your teeth at and below the gumline.


What is scaling?

It is important to remove tartar because tartar makes teeth even more susceptible to tooth decay. Tartar also causes gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. Scaling is the process of removing tartar from the teeth with dental instruments, or the use of an ultrasonic machine that aids in the process.


What’s the difference between cleaning and scaling?

Regular cleaning removes the sticky plaque above the gumline, while scaling removes the hardened plaque, or tartar, at and below the gumline.


What can I expect from this procedure?

One of our hygienists may use an ultrasonic machine to assist in this process, but most likely, they will use dental instruments to remove the tartar off teeth under the gumline. The scaling is usually followed by a process called root planing, which smoothes any roughness from the surface of the tooth. After scaling and root planing, teeth are more resistant to plaque, and gums can return to their normal pink, healthy state. But, proper dental hygiene is important to keep the teeth and gums healthy, otherwise the tartar and gingivitis are likely to return.


Why would I need it?

Scaling may be needed if one of our dentists or hygienists observed tartar on your teeth and the condition of your gums during the exam or the cleaning. If you have bleeding gums or other signs of gum inflammation, or gingivitis, the most likely cause is tartar buildup at and below the gumline. Once the scaling and root planing are finished, your gums will heal against smooth teeth in an area that has been cleaned of bacteria, plaque and tartar. If it is not done, the gingivitis could worsen into serious gum disease called periodontitis, and the tartar will contribute to tooth decay.


What are the benefits?

Removal of tartar, or calculus, will reduce tooth decay. Scaling can also reverse gingivitis before it becomes a more serious form of gum disease. The benefits, however, only last as long as the calculus remains off the teeth. Some patients will need periodic scaling if they are prone to tartar buildup, or they don’t practice proper oral hygiene.