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Ultrasonic Scaling: How Does it Work?

Posted on 10/23/2015 by Truman Nielsen
A dentist holding an ultrasonic scaler.Dental plaque is the main cause of gum disease, and when this film of bacteria is allowed to form on the teeth, it can harden to create a tough substance known as tartar.

Unfortunately, once plaque has hardened into tartar, you won't be able to remove it on your own, and you'll need to take a trip to the dentist for a proper cleaning.

The purpose of visiting your dentist every six months is to have your teeth cleaned by a professional hygienist who is trained to remove plaque and tartar deposits. When these hard deposits on the teeth are removed, the process is known as "scaling." This can be completed by using either handheld dental scalers or through the use of a newer technology known as ultrasonic scaling. Find out how ultrasonic scaling works and why patients are beginning to prefer this cleaning method.

How Ultrasonic Scaling Works

An ultrasonic scaler consists of a thin tip that is held against the tooth. It produces sound waves, and when these waves bounce off the teeth, plaque and tartar will be broken apart. Even especially hard tartar can be easily broken up, and the debris will be washed away via the water that is released from the scaler. Traditional hand scaling methods could damage the tooth's enamel, and since only vibrations are used to clean the teeth rather than scraping by hand, the patient will experience a more comfortable procedure.

Benefits of Ultrasonic Scaling

Ultrasonic scalers offer a variety of advantages over hand scaling:

•  Less treatment time, especially with heavy tartar deposits.
•  Ultrasonic scalers can better reach below the gum line where tartar and plaque often hide.
•  Ultrasonic scaling can prevent gingivitis and periodontitis.
•  Provides greater comfort to the patient.
•  Provides better access to the deep pockets and less damage to the cementum of the teeth.
•  Ultrasonic scaling can remove heavy stains on the teeth due to tea, coffee, or nicotine.
•  Less trauma to the gum tissue since ultrasonic scaling doesn't require sharp cutting edges.
•  Ultrasonic scaling uses water to keep the tissues moist, reducing the need to rinse during the scaling process.

However, like all medical and dental treatments, there are also a few shortcomings to using ultrasonic scaling. These scalers may not be the best option for people with heart pacemakers. Additionally, a contaminated mist could form when using this technology, so hygienists will need to wear protective equipment.

Ultrasonic Scaling vs. Hand Scaling

With hand scaling, your hygienist will use hand tools in order to scrape the tartar away from the teeth and out of the pockets. These tools are especially effective for removing tartar and plaque from shallow gum pockets and will not interfere with heart pacemakers and other equipment. They can be used easily on teeth that have experienced demineralization, and they tend to be easier on the tooth's surface.

Therefore, hand scaling methods are often preferred for people who have sensitive teeth or have restorations made out of composite or porcelain. However, many patients prefer ultrasonic scaling over hand scaling because of the increased level of comfort and for the fact that ultrasonic scaling tends to be a much faster process than hand scaling.

In many cases, the choice of scalers used in your dental cleaning doesn't have to be an either/or scenario. Most dentists recommend using both instrument types in order to achieve the best results. The end result is a dental cleaning that can efficiently remove the dental plaque and tartar while improving your overall comfort level.

If you are in need of a dental cleaning, please contact us today to schedule your appointment. We can tell you more about the scalers we'll use throughout your appointment.
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Spokane, WA 99203

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