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What is dental cleaning or scaling? 

Scaling is cleaning the junctions of teeth and gums where tartar starts to form. Tartar or calculus separates the gums from the teeth and makes them weak.  In dental cleaning or scaling, all tartar that has formed at these junctions is removed. Stains on the teeth are removed. Areas where toothbrush cannot reach are cleaned. Then the teeth are polished to make them smooth. 
before and after dental

How is it done?

Dental cleaning or scaling is done with the help of manual instruments/ electronic equipment called as a scaler. The manual scalers are designed to engage the tartar and pull it out. The scaler equipment utilizes ultrasonic vibrations to loosen the tartar and a water jet to clean the gums and teeth. Your dentist will run his scaler, one tooth at a time with gentle force, covering four surfaces of every tooth - front, back and two sides. You can expect some amount of bleeding and sensitivity during scaling if gum disease exists. 

What else should I know about Dental Cleaning/ Scaling? 

Dental cleaning should be done atleast once a year, so that gum disease can be kept in check. Your toothbrush will not be able to clean all areas of your teeth thoroughly, and you will not be able to see tartar or calculus forming in the inside teeth. An annual scaling takes care of these problems.
 Scaling is usually a simple and comfortable procedure. There is often some amount of sensitivity when scaling is done for the lower front teeth. This is because of gum disease that is exposing the roots of the teeth. While scaling can be done under local anesthesia (numbing of the teeth) if required, simple scaling rarely requires it. 
 Many patients often enquire if scaling weakens the teeth because the instruments appear to scratch the enamel to remove tartar. Scaling is an absolutely safe dental procedure that actually makes the teeth strong by improving the health of their gums. Any roughness of enamel is polished out after the dental cleaning. 
A quick "brush-up"
Dental cleaning/ Scaling and polishing/ Gum cleaning
Done for 
Removing tartar and stains, Healthy gums and teeth
Number of sittings
1-3 sittings of 30-45 minutes
Pain/ Discomfort
Mild sensitivity during and after cleaning, subsides in a few days
May lead to loss of very weak teeth
Requires anesthesia (numbing)
General dental procedure