The dental procedure known as dental scaling is a type of cleaning that will take place below the gum line. It is a very common type of deep cleaning for protecting tooth enamel beneath the gums and gum tissue from periodontal (gum) disease. Also, with healthy teeth and gums, you are much less likely to experience tooth loss and other effects of poor or insufficient oral care.

There are several types of dental scaling, which will all accomplish pretty much the same goal but to different extents. Types of scaling include the following:

  • Prophylaxis cleaning, which is a fairly simple clean often performed by a hygienist
  • Scaling and root planing, which is more of a deep cleaning method
  • Gross debridement, which is an extensive cleaning process for the most severe cases

As leading providers of a wide range of dental treatments at our Brighton and Hove-based clinic, including specialist treatment options for nervous patients, we are well-placed to explain a bit more about scaling. Please feel free to get in touch with us to book an appointment.

What is the Dental Scaling Procedure?

Dental scaling is one of the most common types of dental cleanings and delivers a form of dental hygiene you could not do by yourself. Many treatment providers will take a dental X-ray, which will clearly show deposits below the gum line and give an accurate picture of your teeth.

The course of treatment involves scraping off the layers of plaque, tartar and other harmful substances, which will usually proceed as follows:

  1. Initial dental exam: Before starting, you will have a short dental exam to confirm the extent of the tartar, plaque, calculus or other build-ups that threaten your oral health. This provides an opportunity to check for any problem areas that need a special focus.
  2. Applying a local anaesthetic: A light anaesthetic, which is usually in the form of a topical cream, will numb the area being treated. You will probably feel some awkward movements but the procedure is non-surgical and will not harm the teeth or gums.
  3. Scaling: The dentist will then use a scaler, a small hook-shaped instrument, which will allow them to scrape off all of the plaque within the periodontal pocket of your gums. It will reach deep into the pocket and remove the plaque, far deeper than brushing.
  4. Planing: By using a tool called a dental curette, the dentist or hygienist will then smooth the rough edges of the roots of your teeth. Doing this means that the gums can heal back into position much more easily without any harmful buildup.

See below for a visual representation of how the scaler tool reaches down into the gum pocket:

teeth scaling - dental plaque removal, anatomy structure including the bone and gum

You may need an additional visit if the build-up is significant. As the dental scaling procedure can be quite tough on the gums there is a chance that bacteria in your mouth gets into your bloodstream – so to deal with this you will be given a special mouthwash or even medication.

In most cases, recovery is quick and occurs in as little as a few days. However, it is completely normal to expect some initial bleeding, swelling and general soreness as a typical side effect.

Exceptional dental care in the centre of Brighton & Hove

Located in the heart of Hove, we pride ourselves on our excellent level of service and our unparalleled attention to detail and exemplary staff who will ensure you get the very best dental care available. Our dental services are second to none and will leave you with a smile on your face.

How Much Does Dental Scaling Cost in the UK?

A simple scale and polish from a hygienist or dentist will cost around £50 on average, but there will be additional costs for deep scaling and gross debridements in most cases – so the prices can easily increase. £50 to £100 is a fairly standard price point for many types of teeth cleaning.

The book A Consumer’s Guide to Dentistry, published in 2002, says dental scaling costs are “Low if accomplished on a routine basis, but higher if a large accumulation of tartar is allowed to build up.”, which shows that scaling can be a good investment for your long-term dental health.

The overall treatment costs for scaling can also creep up if you require return visits, which will be decided in advance by your dentist and depends on the current state of your teeth and gums.

Does Dental Scaling Hurt?

Nervous Patients
A brunette girl holds with her hand the jaw of a sick wisdom tooth with a cyst. Dental disease concept in dentistry, gum inflammation, copy space for text, molar

As you can imagine, the feeling of having your teeth scraped can be slightly uncomfortable! However, you will only feel minimal discomfort during the procedure, which is thanks to the application of a local anaesthetic. With the gum line effectively numbed, you will not be able to feel the scaler tool reaching into the periodontal pockets or scraping up the deposits below.

One thing that might feel a bit sore and painful is the recovery process. Because the procedure can be quite rough on the soft tissue of the gums, especially if you have gum disease, you might experience bleeding, redness, swelling and soreness. These side effects will typically be mild and go away within a few days. In cases of severe pain, over-the-counter medication can be helpful.

If you are a nervous patient make sure you select a clinic like the one we have in Brighton and Hove, which provides options such as oral sedation and also specialises in providing a supportive environment for people who worry about going to the dentist.

Is Dental Scaling Necessary?

Regular periodontal maintenance is very effective and dental scaling and planing is a good option for people with existing or who are at high risk for gum disease and other dental issues. If you have significant damage to the teeth, are a smoker or have diabetes then this might affect the effectiveness of your treatment, which you will need to discuss with a dentist beforehand.

Dental scaling can also reduce the risk of needing further treatment down the line, which may include more intensive, uncomfortable and expensive treatments as an alternative, such as a root canal, tooth extraction and the need to fit crowns or veneers.

Can Dental Scaling Damage My Teeth?

Closeup Prosthodontics

No. Although it might sound and feels like a robust technique, dental scaling will not damage your teeth – this is a persistent myth with no factual basis. The small discomfort of the procedure is nothing compared to the pain and discomfort of worsening dental and gum issues, which will also be much more expensive to treat.

So long as you are otherwise healthy, with no underlying medical conditions, all potential side effects should be mild and unlikely to pose any problem. A very recent and thorough 2021 study published in the journal Science Direct states that in terms of disadvantages there are “None for a normal, healthy individual.” so there is no direct evidence that scaling causes any damage.

Dental Scaling Explained

Dental scaling is a type of cleaning that uses a special tool to reach plaque and tartar below the gum line. The roots of the teeth are often planed following the scaling, which is good for gum health. Tooth scaling can improve and prevent a wide range of potential gum and teeth issues.
Scaling could be right for you but there may be other treatments that are a better option. If you come to us for teeth cleaning in Brighton, we can determine the best course of treatment and provide specialist services for nervous patients. Get in touch and book an appointment with us.


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