Teeth cleaning: Why are hygiene appointments for a scale and polish so important?

16 December · 4 minutes

Daily brushing and flossing is not always enough to maintain proper teeth hygiene. The consumption of products such as coffee or tea can generate stains that are difficult to remove with a simple brushing and tartar always manages to find some space in our mouth to settle. To remove both superficial stains and tartar, there is a procedure that is recommended at least once a year: a hygiene appointment for a scale and polish. We tell you what a dental cleaning is, what it's for and how it's done and we include answers to some frequently asked questions about teeth hygiene.

What is a hygiene appointment for a scale and polish?

A dental cleaning is a simple procedure performed to reinforce oral hygiene, tartar and plaque removal as well as teeth scaling. This procedure should always be carried out by a professional dentist or dental hygienist, who will almost certainly refer to this treatment as "hygiene appointment" as this is the name given to this procedure in the dental sector.

A woman during her hygiene appointment

What does a scale and polish do?

Even if we brush and floss our teeth regularly, appointments for cleaning teeth with professional tools can have big a impact on our mouth’s health but, why are regular dental hygiene appointments so important? Oral hygiene is intended to help us prevent problems such as cavities and diseases like gingivitis, receding gums or periodontitis, and should be performed as a complement to daily oral hygiene, not as a substitute for it. In addition, professional teeth cleaning helps to remove tartar and some stains that may be more difficult to remove with simple brushing.

Dental cleaning serves to reinforce the hygiene of our mouth and help to maintain good general health.

What exactly is involved in the dental cleaning process?

We know what hygiene appointments are for, but how is a dental cleaning performed? This procedure should always be carried out by a professional, who will perform an inspection, examining each tooth and checking the patient's gingival health. This will help you determine if the patient needs hygiene and what factors should be taken into account during the process. Once the professional has determined that the patient is in need of hygiene, he or she will begin the teeth cleaning process, which consists of two main parts: using dental cleaning instruments like ultrasonic teeth cleaning and cleaning with prophylaxis paste.

  1. The treatment begins with ultrasonic tooth cleaning. A scaler is used for this process, it is an instrument for dental cleaning that has a vibrating tip and expels water. The pressurised water is introduced into the gingival margins, removing and dislodging tartar or calculus. The water pressure and vibration also help to remove surface stains from food, tea, coffee and tobacco.
  2. Once the professional has passed the scaler over all the teeth, a brush with a rotating head is used to help spread a prophylaxis paste. This paste helps to remove both stains and bacterial plaque. 

Once this process has been completed, if the professional has observed that the patient can improve their daily dental hygiene, they will give them indications and recommendations for maintaining correct hygiene at home. 

A man during a hygiene appointment

Are there different types of dental cleaning?

Dental cleaning, which is also referred to as a "scale and polish" or "hygiene appointment", is often mistaken for another treatment called ‚Äúroot planing and scaling‚ÄĚ (commonly known as "deep dental cleaning"). It is important to note, however, that these are two different procedures with different purposes.

The ‚Äúdeeper‚ÄĚ clean of the two, root planing and scaling, involves removing the plaque and tartar from the surface all the way down into the periodontal pockets. Once the gum line has been thoroughly cleaned, the next step is to start root planning. This type of teeth cleaning is only recommended for patients with periodontal problems as it is more complex.

The other type of dental cleaning, a basic hygiene appointment, or scale and polish, is used as a preventive method. It is the simpler of the two treatments and is the most common. As children hardly accumulate tartar, professional teeth cleanings for them are sometimes even simpler, with the treatment being carried out by a pediatric dentist and consisting of cleaning only with fluoride (scaler are not used).

What should you do after scaling and polishing?

To prolong the results of professional oral hygiene, it is important to maintain proper oral hygiene at home after the scaling and polishing appointment. Here are some tips on how to improve daily oral hygiene:

  • After a dental cleaning, brushing your teeth frequently will help prolong the effects of this treatment. Brushing should be done at least twice a day (morning and evening), but ideally just after every meal, especially if the patient wears braces or aligners.
  • The brush to be used should be soft and with straight bristles (3 or 4 rows). Ideally, it should not contain rubber bands or other "extras" as these elements can interfere with the brushing technique.
  • In terms of technique, the brush should be placed in a 45-degree position, allowing the bristles to enter the gingival sulcus (between the tooth and the gum). The gingival sulcus are the areas where most plaque accumulates, so it is important to brush both the outer and inner (behind the tooth).
  •  It is also important to floss at least once a day. When choosing the dental floss you will use in your daily hygiene, we recommend choosing unwaxed floss, as these trap more plaque.
A man brushing his teeth

Dental cleaning cost

Dental hygiene cleaning prices can vary. However, the average price of scale and polish in the UK is from £100 to £130. The price of a dental hygiene cleaning can vary depending on the city where you have it done, the instruments used during this process, and the clinic you choose, although the procedure is almost always the same.

Relationship between dental hygiene and orthodontics

Scale and polish with braces or aligners

It is vital to maintain good oral hygiene with orthodontics and, depending on the type of corrective appliance, this is sometimes not so easy. For example, wearing fixed braces can make daily dental hygiene difficult as the brackets (attached to the tooth) and archwires make brushing and flossing more difficult. This means scaling and polishing during braces is key. This being the case, specialists often recommend professional teeth cleaning during fixed orthodontic treatment.

However, this is not the case with removable orthodontics, such as Impress clear aligners. Dental hygiene with removable orthodontics is easier as the patient can remove the aligners to brush their teeth normally. This makes it easier to maintain proper daily oral hygiene and, as long as a cleaning has been performed before starting treatment, it is not necessary to perform another cleaning in the middle of the treatment.

A lady inserting her clear aligners

Dental hygiene before starting orthodontic treatment

But oral hygiene is not only important during orthodontic treatment. Before starting, it is essential to have good oral health, which is why many specialists recommend that their patients have their teeth cleaned before starting treatment.

Our priority is the health of our patients and therefore, at Impress, we ensure that the patient starts treatment with excellent dental and gingival health. Dental hygiene is a pre-treatment that helps to improve the oral health of our patients and that is why it is one of the most frequent preworks among our patients. If the patient has not had professional oral hygiene in the last few weeks, we recommend that they make an appointment for this procedure before starting their invisible orthodontic treatment.

If you are thinking of changing your smile, contact us and find out more about our orthodontic treatments and the preworks available at your nearest Impress clinic. You can contact us by making an appointment through our website, by phone or Whatsapp at +44 20 3808 1072.

Find out about our prices, treatments and pre-treatments without obligation, we look forward to seeing you!

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Frequently asked questions about dental cleaning

Does a scale and polish hurt?

In patients with good oral health, teeth cleaning should not hurt, although it can be a little uncomfortable. However, it is possible that some patients may experience pain, especially if they suffer from tooth sensitivity or if they have a cavity.

Does a scale and polish hurt?

In patients with good oral health, teeth cleaning should not hurt, although it can be a little uncomfortable. However, it is possible that some patients may experience pain, especially if they suffer from tooth sensitivity or if they have a cavity.

What’s the number of recommended dental cleanings per year?

It depends on the individual case. In patients with good gingival health, the ideal is to have a dental cleaning every 8 / 12 months. If the patient has periodontal problems the cleaning should be more frequent, approximately every 3 / 5 months.

How long should a hygiene appointment be?

The treatment usually lasts between 30 and 40 minutes.

What about dental cleaning procedures during pregnancy?

Yes, not only can it be done, but many dentists recommend it as there may be a greater propensity to gingivitis or caries due to hormonal changes. The only thing to keep in mind in these cases is that the use of anaesthesia should be avoided.

Can you eat after a dental cleaning?

Yes, you can eat after a dental cleaning, but there are no food restrictions, although people who drink a lot of coffee or smoke are advised to reduce their consumption to avoid the appearance of new stains on their teeth. Excessive consumption of this will increase the need for plaque removal treatments.


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