For patients with healthy teeth and gums, and even in those who have the earliest signs of gingivitis, a dental cleaning usually involves three simple steps:
- Scaling: This procedure is carried out with a tool called a scaler. In cases where there are only a few small spots of hard calculus, your hygienist may use a manual scaler to remove tartar deposits from the teeth by gently scraping them. Tartar can also be removed with an ultrasonic scaler, which is an electronic device that uses a gentle vibration and a steady stream of water to break up larger pieces of tartar and wash away the particles.
- Polishing: This step involves using a handheld tool with a spinning rubber head that polishes all tooth surfaces using a slightly abrasive paste. Polishing helps remove minor stains on the enamel and gives teeth a smooth surface that is less likely to attract plaque and oral bacteria.
- Fluoride: In most cases, your dentist and/or dental hygienist will recommend a fluoride treatment after each cleaning. Applied as a rinse, gel, foam or a varnish, fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen the enamel, which is the outermost layer of the teeth, helping it resist the acid attack that can lead to tooth decay.