Dental scaling, cleaning, and also known as oral prophylaxis is the removal of plaque and calculus from the teeth. So, what is plaque and what is calculus?
Dental plaque is a non-mineralized, thin, sticky film and mass of bacteria that grows on the teeth surfaces; it adheres to the tooth surfaces firmly and resists removal by our saliva in the mouth. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque contains bacteria, which come in contact with a meal or snack containing sugars or starches can release acids that attack tooth. Repeated attacks can break down the enamel layer of teeth, ultimately leading to tooth decay.
Dental calculus is actually the hardened form of plaque resulting from the mineralization process in our mouth. It composed of millions of bacterial cells calcified together with calcium phosphae which comes from the saliva.
Pointers showing the inflamed gums due to formation of calculus; Heavy calculus can be noted on the lower front teeth (blue circles)
Once formed, plaque and tartar irritate the gums causing them to become inflamed, irritated, and infected, further leading to bleeding and swelling of the gums, gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. If gingivitis left untreated, this can worsen to a more serious stage called periodontis, in which there is inflammation and bone loss aroud the teeth. The tartar will spread further down below the gum line causing the gums to recede, and damage the supporting bone structure. Eventually, this will cause the tooth to loosen and result in tooth loss!
Comparison of the healthy and calculus-free tooth versus the diseased tooth surfaces.
Pictures above shows the progressive deterioration of the gum conditions,from a healthy tooth, inflamed gum( gingivitis); formation of pockets; to loss of supportive structure underneath the gum (periodontitis)
Dental calculus is impossible to be removed by tooth brushing alone yet the most effective way to remove it is by undergoing a scaling by your dentist. An ultrasonic scaling device will be used to breaks those stone like calculus away and removing the dental plaque at the same time via the sonic vibration.
Patient came with the complaint of plaque formation on the teeth especially near to the gum lines,
ultrasonic scaling done to remove the plaque and calculus.
You can prevent plaque buildup and keep the teeth free of cavity by visiting the dentist regularly,scaling is advisable for 6 months or a year once at least. Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth with dental floss everyday do help in reducing the rate of plaque formation.
Dr Daphne Kong
Union Dental, Ipoh Branch