Think you know what’s a Scale and Polish at the Dentist? Think Again!

16th April 2024

Burning Questions about Scaling and Polishing ANSWERED!

You’d probably have heard of the term ‘scaling and polishing’ being thrown around before, especially around your dentist. But do you know what it actually means?

You might have also have been guilty of this thought before: ‘I already brush my teeth everyday, Why do I need to have my teeth scaled and polished from my teeth at the dentist’s?

Not to worry, it’s perfectly normal to wonder what scaling and polishing does to your teeth. To understand Scaling and Polishing (or SAP in dental terms), you’d first need to understand what SAP get rids of.


The Bad Guys: Plaque and Tartar

Did you know that in your mouth, up to 200 species of bacteria can exist at any one time?

Bacteria exist in the mouth and interact with food debris when you eat to form proteins on the teeth. That’s the sticky white plaque you see when you scratch your tooth surface.

The bacteria in plaque also produce acid after eating sugar, which can cause cavities to form in teeth. The bacteria also irritate gum tissue, and can cause the gum and supporting tissues to your teeth to become damaged. This can even cause your teeth to become loose.

Because of its large number and microscopic nature, it’s impossible to completely remove bacteria from the mouth and over time any plaque that sits on teeth hardens into tartar. Tartar, also known as calculus, is a hardened mineralized build up on the teeth and unlike plaque cannot be removed with a toothbrush, floss or mouthwash.

Over time as more tartar builds up, it creates more crevices for food and bacteria to colonise and cause gum disease. Think of it as the walls of the Grand Canyon, and bacteria as the animals living in tartar walls.

To see if you have tartar, have a good hard look at your teeth. They may start to look more yellow or brown as tartar can stain sometimes. These bacteria are harmful particularly to the gum and jawbone around teeth.

The worst part? Gum disease is often painless and a leading cause of bad breath.

SAP helps you keep your plaque and tartar levels under control by removes tartar buildup.

Have we got your attention now? Read on to find out what are some of the common questions asked about the SAP process.


What can I expect from my Dentist when I go for a Scale and Polish?

At Pure NZ Dental, our dentists use ultrasonic instruments, called “scalers” which use a tickling vibration to remove large pieces of tartar off your teeth. It has a water mist, which cools and flushes away debris. This usually makes a hum or high pitched whistling noise as the water and air come out the tip. The tips are rounded at the end, not sharp, as they are not designed to cut teeth or gums.

Then the dentist uses fine hand instruments to remove any small tartar spots still stuck to the teeth. They use gentle moderate pressure to remove any spots remaining.

After the hard tartar is removed, the dentist polishes the teeth. A fluoridated polishing paste is use to help make the teeth shiny. This helps remove any surface stains.

For extra tough stains we also have an air polisher, which uses a fine powder to polish the teeth.

The more tartar and build up on the teeth, the longer it can take to remove. Coming in regularly helps reduce the buildup and saves you having longer appointments. Just think about if you clean your house every week the job is small, but if you don’t clean you house for 6 months it’s going to be a big job!

What are some signs of gum problems?

Gum problems are actually pretty hard to uncover if you don’t make going to the dentist a regular habit because it is generally painless until too late. You might experience bad breath swollen or bleeding gums especially after brushing or flossing. If you have any of these issues on a regular basis of 2 months or more, consult your dentist.

If gum disease is not treated your teeth may start to become loose, and if it gets too complicated extractions are often necessary.

Gum disease may not be painful so it’s important to come in for regular checkups to make sure you don’t have gum problems. For more information on healthy gums, you can check out this page.

Why do I have to come back for more Scaling and Polishing than my friend/family member?

Every person has different risks and needs for treatment. We tailor the treatment to what you personally require. Some people are naturally more susceptible to gum problems, or have other medical conditions that increase their risk. Also they may have a heavy buildup of tartar and stains, which require additional time to deal with thoroughly.

How often do I need to have Scaling and Polishing done?

It depends on your personal need, which our dentists can advise on. Generally it is advisable to come in twice a year to not only keep the teeth and gums healthy but also check for signs of oral cancer and other mouth problems.

Have more questions about Scaling and Polishing? Ask away on our Facebook page here, else just pop by our clinic for a coffee and chat! We look forward to see you again!

At Pure NZ Dental,  our friendly and highly professional team are passionate about providing you with the dental care that you deserve!

Have a question or a concern? We’re only an email or a call away!

Contact us at +65 96798770 via WhatsApp or call us at +65 64630257, or via email at 

Related Post