July 19, 2023
A scale and polish is a basic dental procedure which involves cleaning and smoothening the surfaces of teeth. It is recommended that an individual gets his or her teeth cleaned at least once or twice a year. A scaling and polishing procedure helps in the complete removal of debris, plaque, calculus and stains.
Scaling is done with the help of an electronic device called an ultrasonic unit. It contains a handheld instrument which has a metallic scaler tip that receives ultrasonic vibrations. These vibrations are also combined with a thin water stream which generate a microstreaming effect for the cleansing effect. Polishing follows next where a prophylactic paste is used to smoothen the surface of the teeth in order to ensure a significant reduction in the attachment of harmful microbes in the future.
After a scaling and polishing procedure, the patient is likely to feel some sensitivity of teeth. This is because at a microscopic level, the tooth has small channels in the form of microscopic tubules. When exposed to an extreme sensation (e.g. air, cold water), the nerve fibres within these tubules receive the sensation and elicit an uncomfortable sensitivity.
Before a scaling and polishing procedure, the debris, plaque, calculus, tartar, that are how to acidogenic microbes cover the tooth surface and block the channels from the external environment. One should keep in mind, that this is not a defense mechanism as retention of these microbes leads to cavitations. Hence, after the removal of plaque and calculus, the teeth can be prone to sensitivity. In order to avoid this, the dentist may or may not use a medicated paste during the polishing procedure. They might prescribe mouthwashes or toothpastes (containing potassium nitrate and fluoride compounds) that can prevent sensitivity.
In some cases the plaque and calculus might extend below the gingival border. The dentist may give a local anesthesia to numb those fragile tissues that may feel pain when the scaler is passed around them.
Patient negligence after a scale and polish procedure is very common. They might be ignorant to their oral hygiene habits and may not even brush with the toothpaste prescribed to them. They may also consume foods that stain or discolour the teeth. When it comes to food consumption, there are many points a patient must religiously follow after a scaling and polishing procedure.
One should keep in mind that the type of food to consume after a scale and polish should be one which is gentle to the gums. This is because the gums are the most sensitive tissues after this procedure. They may even be numb if the calculus was lodged deep. Hence, food must be consumed only after the numbness wears off. Moreover, the ultrasonic scaler will create some microporosities in the tooth enamel, which takes at least 6 hours to recover. This, during the first 6 hours, patients cannot consume anything that can stain their teeth (tea, coffee, berries, etc).
Sharp, crunchy, chewy, hot, acidic and spicy foods must be avoided for 2 days after a scale and polish procedure. Soft diet is advised during this period. Some of them are soups (room temperature), pastas, rice, yogurt, eggs, bananas, soft potatoes, soft green vegetables, smoothies, etc. From the third or fourth day, the patient can feel the sensitivity in the gums decreasing. However, this does not mean that the margin of the gums that were detached from the tooth surface by the scaler are completely fixed and healed. It takes nearly one week for complete healing.
In order to promote this healing, the patient should consume a diet full of calories and nutrition. During the gradual progression of the first week, the patients can start with meals of relatively harder texture and consistency like pizzas and soft meats. Ice-creams must be consumed only after the first two days. In the first week after a scale and polish procedure, try avoiding foods that are heavily stuffed (burgers, large sandwiches, etc). This is because the mix of all the acidic components in the mix of foods, and the retention of some of these ingredients in the space between two teeth and within the gums acan delay the healing process.
A scaling and polishing procedure might be the most basic dental procedure. But unlike any other treatment, its post-operative rules following the procedure (emphasising on food intake) must be thoroughly followed by the patient in order to ensure the success of the treatment.