The key to oral health is regular cleaning and removal of plaque and tartar build up. This starts with a daily oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing and flossing.
However, even with good daily oral hygiene, some plaque still remains in your mouth. Over time it can harden and become tartar (also known as calculus). If tartar is left in your mouth, it will cause periodontal disease (gum disease). Tartar can be removed only by a dentist or dental hygienist with a process called “scaling”, in which either ultrasound vibrations or a manual tool called a “scaler” is used to remove tartar from the portion of your tooth that is below the gum line. When you go in for regular cleanings (usually twice per year), your dentist will scale each tooth on all sides and between the teeth to remove tartar build up, especially in the most difficult places to reach. If you are particularly sensitive, your dentist may temporarily numb your teeth and gums so the cleaning process isn’t uncomfortably painful.
Since plaque and calculus love to grab on to rough surfaces of the tooth, once the built-up tartar has been removed from your tooth, the rough or irregular surfaces are smoothed away with a process called “root planing”. This process is used to prevent periodontal disease, to reverse any early signs of gum disease, and to prevent any existing periodontal disease from spreading.
These common techniques are the first, most basic step in preventing periodontal disease. If you regularly keep your dental check up appointments, in which the dentist performs scaling and root planning, you are likely not to need further, more invasive treatments.