What is Teeth Scaling? – Dental Health – 2023

‘What is Teeth scaling’ has been a common question we get from patients that have visited a dentist. This is often regarded as a routine procedure performed to assist patients with gum disease and severe plaque buildup.

While a standard cleaning addresses the tooth surface, scaling goes way deeper. If your dentist suggests teeth scaling for your teeth, it is necessary and helpful to understand it so that you can prepare for the procedure.

What is Teeth Scaling? – Intro

Teeth scaling, or dental scaling, is a cleaning procedure designed to remove excess buildup of plaque on the teeth; it is used to prevent gum disease. On its own, the dental scaling procedure functions for more extreme deep cleaning of the teeth.

what is teeth scaling
Woman at the dentist’s chair during a dental procedure

If you have not had professional teeth cleaning for a few years, your dentist may suggest a deep cleaning, which includes teeth scaling, to return your dentition and gums to a healthier state.

This treatment often goes beyond the general cleaning measures you receive with regular checkups and visits. Here is some vital information about teeth scaling and what it involves.

What is Teeth Scaling? – The Process

Deep cleaning involves two parts: teeth scaling and root planning. Teeth scaling occurs when your dentist removes the plaque and tartar-hardened plaque – above and below your gum line, cleaning to the end of the pocket.

Afterward, your dentist will begin root planning, smoothing out the roots of your teeth to aid your gums reattaching to your teeth. Dental scaling and root planning often take more than a visit and may require a local anesthetic to relieve pain.

Cleaning Periodontal pocket.

Teeth Scaling Procedure

The goal of the teeth scaling procedure is to remove plaque buildup found below the gum line along the teeth. Scaling occurring during frequent dental cleanings aims at the plaque buildup that forms.

When plaque is void of treatment and routine dental cleanings have not happened, the plaque develops and moves into the gums. There are two basic methods of scaling:

1. Handheld scaler:  A handheld metal scaler is used by your dentist to scrape away plaque deposits from the tooth and gum line to remove the plaque remains that your toothbrush cannot reach.

2. Ultrasonic scaler: An automatic ultrasonic scaler comprises a metal tip with a water spray and vibrates at a low frequency. The vibration aids the metal tip to break up the plaque, while the water flushes the debris and remains away.

Benefits of Teeth Scaling

1. Prevents cavities and tooth decay: Tooth decay and cavities are major dental issues that could be discomforting; teeth scaling helps to prevent these. The cavities often become the host for plaque, damaging the enamel of the teeth. So, imagine the damage it could create.

A regular visit to a dentist for scaling, proper oral hygiene, and flossing will help keep plaque at bay.

2. Prevent periodontal disease: Plaque buildup will also impair your gums if it has developed beneath it; this can lead to tooth loss.

Teeth scaling or cleaning will guard the inferior part of your gum, forming a strong anchor for your teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene.

what is teeth scaling
Male patient experiencing pain during dental hygiene at dentist office

3. Remove stains: Consuming coffee, tea, colored liquids, wine, and tobacco causes stains and tinges on the teeth; this deep cleaning method helps you to get rid of these pigments from your teeth, retaining a happy smile and a whiter tooth.

4. Prevents bad breath: Plaque buildup traps bacteria and eventually forms tartar, a hard substance on the teeth. This will cause halitosis or bad breath. With the help of daily cleaning and flossing, you will experience partial results.

To eliminate this, teeth scaling is necessary. The removal of stains, bacteria, tartar, and plaque will freshen up your mouth once again.

Why is Scaling Important?

Gum disease is caused by a sticky layer of bacteria called plaque. This film forms on the walls of the teeth. If they are not properly cleaned well, the bacteria present can cause inflammation of the gums. When this occurs, your gums often pull away from the teeth and form spaces known as pockets. Thus, plaque gets stuck in these pockets and cannot go off with ordinary brushing. If left untreated, gum disease could develop into bone and tooth loss.

Furthermore, if the disease is caught in time and has not damaged the structures beneath the gum line, you should opt for deep cleaning. However, if the pockets are too deep, scaling and root planning are used.

It is a regular rule of thumb that teeth scaling is needed when pocket sizes advance to 4 millimeters and more. The goal of the teeth scaling procedure is to get rid of plaque below the gum line and to aid the gums return to a healthy condition.

What is Teeth Scaling – After Care Tips

After the deep treatment, it is normal to experience soreness and sensitivity in the teeth and gums for a few days. The more invasive the course of action, the more soreness and inflammation to expect. Some people experience light bleeding for a few days or weeks. If your dentist thinks that you will have a lot of discomforts, they may recommend a desensitizing toothpaste or a prescribed mouthwash to use after this procedure. Additionally, your dentist will arrange a follow-up visit after the treatment to re-examine the gums, measure the depth of pockets, and check in on the progress of healing.

To prevent further infection and to control pain, your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse or pill. Your dentist may also insert medication, for example, sub-antimicrobial doxycycline directly into the pocket that has been cleaned.

Good dental care at home is necessary to help prevent the recurrence of gum disease from becoming more serious.  Endeavor to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush, brush between your teeth regularly, eat a balanced meal, avoid smoking or using tobacco and fix an appointment with your dentist regularly.

What is Teeth Scaling – FAQ

1. Is teeth scaling painful?

The simple answer is no. You will experience tons of discomfort upon completion, but the actual procedure is completed with the aid of a local anesthetic administered to the soft tissue; this minimizes any obnoxious feeling during the process.

2. Is scaling of teeth necessary?

Teeth scaling and root planning are unnecessary for people with healthy gums and teeth. A dentist will only advance with the deep cleaning procedure if the patient has gum disease.

3. What happens after scaling teeth?

After teeth scaling is completed, you would often experience slight uneasiness around the teeth for several days; you would also experience increased sensitivity to hot,  cold, and sometimes sweets for about 4 to 6 weeks duration. This is the normal course of healing.

4. How long does scaling take?

Generally, the teeth scaling procedure can be completed in one visit. This visit will take around 1 hour to complete (from start to finish). However, if there is more plaque deposition, then it can take a few hours more to complete.

5. How often should I do teeth scaling?

As a general rule, people with healthy gums and teeth usually need to scale about every 6 months. If you have past experiences with gum disease, your visits are more likely to be fixed 3-5 months apart. Healthy adults and children should try to have their teeth cleaned via scaling at least twice a year because periodontal problems often cause tooth decay and gum infection.

6. What not to do after teeth scaling?

As best as you can, avoid alcohol and hot or excessive spicy foods until the gums are healed. Also, do not use any tobacco products for a minimum of 72 hours after the treatment, because tobacco is found to slow the healing process. Lastly, brush the treated region softly on the first night.


Dental scaling is very popular and common in treating patients with gum disease. Nearly half of American adults have gum disease, so you are not alone if your dentist ever recommends this method of cleaning. Scheduling teeth scaling as needed can aid in battling unseen plaque, and maintaining a cleaner mouth. If your dentist recommends that you need scaling, do not hesitate to schedule this appointment. The result is a fresher and whiter smile that you would surely enjoy.

Remember, taking care of your oral health aids in the promotion of an overall healthier version of yourself.


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