Health Blog

The Art of Scaling

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So, if your mind is focused on something as far removed from oral hygiene as you can imagine and someone happens to mention your upcoming dental appointment, what are the first aspects of a visit to the dentist’s office that come to mind? There are several things that may jump out at you, but for many people, the first thing that might come to mind apropos of dentistry isn’t the waiting area or even the dentist necessarily; rather, it may very well be all the scraping that goes on during the common procedure of an ordinary oral examination. All that scraping tends to imprint an indelible memory onto the brain because it can be uncomfortable and because, at some point in your life, your dentist has made the mistake of hurting your gums due to the natural margin of error in repeatedly targeting a spot close to the gum line. All this scraping is a process to which dentists refer as scaling.Related image

The Objective of Scaling

Scaling is also frequently called conventional periodontal therapy or deep cleaning. It is a process that consists primarily of obviating dental plaque and other etiologic agents from your teeth. These agents are some of the primary contributors to inflammation in the mouth, so getting rid of them is the best way to keep periodontal disease in remission. Ordinarily, the dentist is likely to have dental x-rays done prior to scaling if it proves necessary, and the average dental appointment involves scaling, perhaps even more frequently than x-raying.

There are two types of scaling procedures and several types of scaling instruments that dentists use and that patients would likely recognize on sight. All of the scraping that the dentist does above the gum line is called a supragingival scale whereas any scraping or prodding below the gum line is called subgingival scale. The former is far more common than the latter for those who brush and floss regularly; the latter is also sometimes referred to as a deep cleaning, and in the same context, the former is only called a cleaning. They use periodontal curettes, periodontal scalers, and other tools to facilitate these scaling procedures.

Scaling vs. Plaque

Everyone knows that the bad word in the dentist’s office is plaque. We associate the term with this discolored substance that tries to rob you of the kudos you’re owed for not being a smoker. The dentist spends variegated amounts of time from one oral examination to another on scaling, and one of the main variables in that timeframe is that of plaque or how much of it there is on your teeth. This is actually a bacterial biofilm that adheres so strongly to your teeth that you can’t just rinse it off, and in short order, you can quickly find yourself unable to brush it off no matter how much pride you have in your bristle strength.

The manifestation of plaque in and of itself is, in no way, an indictment of a person’s oral hygiene habits because plaque forms on everyone’s teeth, including the dentist’s. That being said, brushing well and flossing well are the best ways people can throw the bacterial colonies that are developing on their teeth into upheaval. Less plaque is able to accumulate when you are more efficient in your brushing and flossing habits in particular.


After a good, old fashioned scaling, the dentist typically focuses on disinfecting the periodontal tissues. For the most part, they may very well do this by way of irrigation. The fluid they use, by the way, isn’t just cold water; it’s chlorhexidinegluconate, which is a solution that is highly substantive in oral tissues. Antibacterial ingredients that are active in the solution sink into the periodontal tissues and stave the onset of infection for a duration. This is also usually what signals to the patient that the oral exam is nearly complete.