What is Dental Cleaning and Scaling?

Cleaning and scaling refer to the non-surgical processes of containing and treating first-stage periodontitis or gum disease, which is caused by the neglect of proper oral hygiene. Cleaning and flossing are necessary to control the bacteria present in our mouths. If we do not maintain strict oral hygiene, we may develop periodontitis.

When teeth are not cleaned and flossed regularly, dental plaque or tartar may accumulate along or just below the gum line, causing bleeding and swollen gums, bad breath or bad taste in the mouth, or receding gums that form pockets between the teeth and gums. If the extent of the periodontitis is severe, root planing or even surgery may be necessary. Left untreated, gum disease can damage and, ultimately, destroy teeth, gums, and even bones. Further, it is connected to decreased diabetes management and can increase the risk of heart attack by 25%. Cleaning and scaling stop gum disease from progressing and restore your teeth and gums to health.


Prophylaxis is the cleaning process of removing tartar and calculus build-up on your teeth. The dentist will also provide deep cleaning between the gums and teeth where bacteria may flourish.

Dentists use two kinds of instruments during the cleaning and scaling process:

  • Handheld instruments: Dentists commonly use hand-held dental scalers and curettes to manually remove plaque from the teeth. These offer flexibility and precision but depend on the dentist’s sense of touch to find the appropriate areas for tartar removal.
  • Ultrasonic instruments: These instruments remove plaque using a vibrating metal tip along with a spray of water to clear away the broken up tartar and to prevent the tip from overheating.

Some local anesthetic may be necessary during this cleaning/scaling process. Patients should not feel much discomfort, and the numbness will wear off shortly after the procedure. In case any infection remains, the dentist may place antibiotic fibers on the teeth or gums or in periodontal pockets to remove infection and facilitate healing. These fibers are removed after a week.

Post-cleaning Care

After having your teeth cleaned by the dentist, the following steps are recommended:

  • Brush and floss regularly and diligently.
  • Avoid tobacco use to allow swift healing.
  • Take any prescribed medication regularly.

To avoid gum disease and its related complications, it is important to maintain healthy oral habits and make regular visits to the dentist. Timely diagnosis and treatment can alleviate and prevent dental problems and, in the long run, reduce healthcare expenses.