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Scale & Polish

During a clean, plaque (a soft, sticky, bacteria infested film) and tartar (calculus) deposits that have built up on the teeth over time, are removed. Saliva, which contains calcium, helps strengthen and protect the teeth. This is a good thing, but it also means that we get a build-up of calcium deposits on the teeth. This substance will eventually build up over time, like lime scale in a kettle. It is usually tooth coloured and can be mistaken as part of the tooth, but it can also be brown to black in colour. If the calculus is allowed to accumulate on the teeth it provides perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive next to the gums. Cleaning and polishing leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria cannot stick to them and you have a better chance of keeping your teeth clean at home. Professional cleaning of teeth is called prophylaxis. This is a Greek word meaning “to prevent beforehand” – in this case, it helps prevent gum disease.

How are dental cleanings done?

Specialized instruments are used to remove deposits from the teeth without harming them.

Ultrasonic Treatment

Usually an ultrasonic instrument is used first. It uses vibrations to remove larger pieces of tartar. It sprays a mist of water to rinse away debris and keep the area cool. The device has a humming or high pitched whistling sound. The instrument’s tips are curved and rounded and by no means sharp since their purpose is to loosen tartar and not to cut into the teeth. The vibration setting can be adjusted to suit the patient if the sensations are too strong. Larger, harder deposits, which have been left for a long time may take longer to remove, so your first clean may take longer than future cleans.

Fine hand tools

Once the large pieces of tartar have been removed, the dentist/hygienist will use finer hand tools to remove smaller pieces. The tools are shaped to match the curves of the teeth. The smaller deposits are removed by gently scraping them off with a moderate amount of pressure.


Once the deposits have all been removed, your teeth will be polished. This is done using a slow speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. A gritty toothpaste-like-material is scooped into the cup and spun around on the teeth to make them shiny smooth.


Fluoride may also be applied. This is the final stage of the dental cleaning! Fluoride foam or gel is placed into a small, flexible tray and placed over the teeth for 30 seconds. Afterwards the patient is directed to spit as much out as possible. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth since the acids from bacteria in dental tartar and plaque will have weakened the surfaces. It is advised not to eat, drink or rinse for 30 minutes after the fluoride has been applied.

See before clean and after clean images below:

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