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Dental Scaling

Posted in Dental Care

What Is Scaling?

Dental scaling is routinely done with patients who have gum disease and extra plaque buildup. Where standard cleanings address the surface of the tooth, scaling is a deeper procedure. If your dentist suggests dental scaling and root planing you may wonder what that means?

Scaling is a typical dental procedure for patients with gum disease. It’s similar to a dental cleaning except it removes plaque buildup below the gumline. That is why, scaling and root planing is often referred to as a “deep cleaning”. It is more than the general cleaning that is done with your regular checkup.

When Should Scaling Be Done?

We all have plaque buildup to varying degrees. The saliva, bacteria, and proteins in your mouth form a thin film that is almost always present on your teeth. After eating or drinking, particles, acids, and sugars stick to this layer, creating plaque. Bacteria thrives on plaque, and if left to grow, can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings all help to remove plaque and prevent more serious issues.

In a healthy mouth, gums fit tightly around each tooth and keep plaque out. but, if gum disease develops, this tight seal can weaken. Healthy gums attach to the tooth about 1 to 3 millimetres below the gumline. Small pockets form around teeth when there is gum disease. This extra space is often a place for plaque to build, cause bad breath, and decay. Pockets 4 millimetres or larger and your Dentist will likely recommend dental scaling to help treat this initial sign of gum disease.

The Procredure

Dental scaling is the careful removal of plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface just below the gumline. There are two approaches to dental scaling. Manual scaling involves scraping plaque from each tooth using a curette (a sharp metal dental tool). The dentist inserts this thin tool beneath the gum line to get at plaque your toothbrush misses. Ultrasonic or high-pressure water can also be used as discussed in our previous blog.

Root planning is usually done after dental scaling to reach even further, accessing and removing plaque at the root level. Root planing smooths the surface of the root making it easier for gums to reattach naturally.

Dental scaling as you can imagine can be uncomfortable, especially if the patient has sensitive gums. At times anesthetic is used to lessen the irritation. Manual scaling may be more uncomfortable than ultrasonic scaling and has a higher risk of collateral damage from the sharp tool that is used. You can expect dental scaling to take more than one visit as it can be a lengthy procedure.


If you have any questions about Dental Scaling, talk to your dentist. Dr. Stephen Mathews of Erbsville Dental and the Erbsville Dental Team (Waterloo, ON.) can answer any questions and help with your dental needs. Call 519-342-1166