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Can teeth scaling be done at home?

Teeth scaling, also known as dental scaling, takes things to the next level in terms of tackling plaque build-up. It’s a dental procedure that uses sharp instruments and careful attention to detail to remove plaque.

Videos of this procedure are going viral on TikTok, which is encouraging people to try it at home.

Is that safe?

Plaque is a sticky film that covers the teeth, and is composed of different types of bacteria and biological elements (such as calcium) found in your saliva. Typically found at the gumline, plaque can form for a number of reasons, either from eating starchy or sugary foods, not brushing every day or not flossing correctly. Most people can feel plaque when they run their tongue on their teeth, or if they scratch at the surface of their teeth with their nail and a yellow or white film comes off.

Aside from the cosmetic effects, plaque build-up can lead to gum inflammation, resulting in bleeding gums and a variety of periodontal conditions (such as gum recession, bone loss and eventual tooth loss), cavities or tooth infections.

So what is teeth scaling?

Teeth scaling is a cleaning procedure designed to eliminate excessive plaque build-up on the teeth. While a standard cleaning will address the surface of the tooth, scaling goes much deeper and usually involves going below the gums. 

The process itself is done via a scaler,  a handheld metal teeth cleaning tool that scrapes off the plaque and calculus, or tartar, from the teeth. The tool is double-sided, with the pointed end used for the tooth section above the gumline and the curved end used to reach below the gumline.  Whilst at the dental practice, an ultrasonic tool with a vibrating metal top plus a water spray to wash tartar away is also used.

Teeth scaling has several benefits for your oral health:

  • Getting rid of plaque build-up can help remove some of that yellow discolouration on your teeth, contributing to a brighter, shinier smile.
  • It can reduce the risk of gum disease and tooth decay and can even help fix bad breath (or halitosis).

Why you should leave teeth scaling to a professional

Scaling should not be performed at home and should be left to clinicians at the dental practice.

It’s not even something that’s recommended for everyone in the first place. Tooth scaling is usually done as a result of a dental examination and x-ray, which confirms that the patient has plaque located significantly below the gumline and is causing gum inflammation with possible bone loss.

Furthermore, the tools used to remove plaque are sharp and have a specific shape for each tooth that help maximise plaque removal while minimising tooth damage. Using tools that are this sharp without any knowledge of how to properly hold them and the pressure with which to apply them to the tooth surface can lead to tooth and gum damage.

At-home teeth scaling can also lead to infection, as scalers must be sterilised thoroughly before every use so as to not transfer bacteria from one surface to another. It’s also possible to overly scale a tooth, which can lead to damage of your enamel as well as minor cracks that can lessen the tooth’s integrity and increase sensitivity.

The takeaway? While removing plaque build-up is important to oral hygiene, teeth scaling should be left in the hands of a professional to reduce the risk of unwanted cuts, bleeding and damage.

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