Scaling is the term used by dentists to remove the hardened deposits that form on your teeth. These deposits, known as calculus or tartar, form when the natural calcium in our saliva mixes with the bacteria in our mouth and food debris. Starting off initially as a soft mix called plaque, it hardens over time and becomes difficult to remove, causing our gums to bleed and teeth to become shaky. Tartar begins to form within minutes from the last time you brush your teeth. They first appear as a thin layer of soft deposits known as “plaque”, which is a combination of small residual food particles and your saliva, along with the bacteria found naturally occurring in your mouth. As they accumulate, they harden, causing a bad taste and the breath to smell less fresh. If left unchecked, it will lead to bleeding gums, loss of the bone surrounding and supporting the tooth leading eventually to tooth loss. Polishing is usually done after scaling, to remove plaque and stains on the teeth’s surface, whilst smoothening the teeth’s surface so that it is more difficult for dirt to get attached onto the teeth.
Scaling takes around 15 minutes. A vibrating device known as an ultrasonic scaler is used to loosen the hardened deposits. Though generally painless, you may experience sensitivity during the procedure. If your sensitivity is severe, we will investigate the cause and recommend to numb the area. Sometimes, your dentist will use an instrument known as a hand scaler to manually remove the deposits of calculus / tartar. This is done if the deposits are below the gums to enable a more thorough, yet gentler clean. After scaling, the surface of the tooth is polished to remove stains and to smoothen the surface. An air jet is then used to spray off residual soft deposits below the gums.
Fluoride has long been known to prevent tooth decay and is added into toothpaste as well as to our water supply. It is especially helpful if you’re at high risk of developing dental caries, or cavities. Cavities occur when bacteria build up on teeth and gums and form a sticky layer of plaque. Plaque produces an acid that erodes teeth and gum tissue. If the plaque breaks down the enamel layer, bacteria can infect and harm the nerves and blood at the core of the tooth. Fluoride is a natural mineral that replenishes the enamel structure, thereby reducing cavity risk. The second major use of fluoride is to desensitize teeth. While scaling is very important in removing the bacteria plaque which adheres to the tooth, it exposes the underlying “scrubbed” surface which feels raw due to the presence of nerve endings. The use of fluoride to cover these surfaces will reduce post-treatment sensitivity and assist the tooth to regain a natural barrier.
Your dentist will provide professional fluoride treatments in the form of a highly concentrated rinse, foam, gel, or varnish. The treatment may be applied with a swab, brush, tray, or mouthwash. These treatments have much more fluoride than what’s in your water or toothpaste. They only take a few minutes to apply. You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after the treatment so the fluoride can fully absorb. Like all minerals, fluoride will be used up by our body, therefore we recommend for patients to apply a professional fluoride treatment with their 6-month cleanings for maximum cavity protecting benefit.
Dental sealants are thin coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars) that can prevent cavities for many years. Dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities over 2 years in the molars, where 9 in 10 cavities occur. Sealants are a quick, easy, and painless way to protect the chewing surfaces from cavities by covering them with a protective shield that blocks out germs and food. Sealants flow into the deep grooves of teeth and harden immediately. Once applied, sealants protect against 80% of cavities for 2 years and continue to protect against 50% of cavities for up to 4 years. Sealants can eliminate the need for expensive and invasive treatments like dental fillings or crowns. Dental sealants are strongly recommended for children once they have grown their first and second molars, at around 6 yo and 12 yo respectively.
For more information, refer to the America Center for Disease Control on Dental Sealants: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/dental_sealant_program/index.htm
Mouthguards are plastic shields which fit over your teeth to act as a cushion or shock absorber in order to protect your teeth from injury. While most understand the need to wear these protective guards during contact sports, damage to our teeth also occurs slowly over time as a result of either habitual clenching of our teeth during the day, or subconscious grinding of our teeth when we are sleeping.
Night Guards are custom-made plastic shields that cover our teeth to cushion them when we grind our teeth. With the rising mental stress in Singapore’s population, many people are unaware of teeth clenching or grinding when sleeping, known as bruxism. While the actual cause is not known, bruxism has been associated with stress, anxiety, and sleeping disorders. Night grinding can lead to excessive teeth wear, or to teeth becoming sensitive, loose or even cracked. In addition, excessive teeth wear leads to shortening of the face and increased facial line which affect facial proportion and aesthetics. In some patients, it can also result in headaches. By wearing a well-fitted night guard, damage to teeth can be greatly reduced.
Sports mouthguards are plastic shields which can be bought off the shelf, or custom made in the clinic to cover our teeth and protect them from injury. In addition to wearing them during contact sports like rugby, hockey or boxing, there is a tendency to grit our teeth during active exertion such as weightlifting or competitive distance running. It is also useful in sports where there is a risk of falls such as skateboarding or off-road cycling as the cushioning effect of these guards can protect teeth from fracture and also prevent us from biting our cheeks and lips during falls.
While mouth guards can be bought over-the-counter, these often do not fit accurately. Your dentist will fabricate a custom-made mouthguard which is firm enough to resist your grinding forces yet soft enough to prevent tooth wear. A mould of your teeth is first taken and a mouthguard is made by heating a special plastic material to fit accurately around the model of your teeth. Mouthguards should be worn during the night if there is a teeth clenching habit while sleeping; or even during the day if the habit persists while working or at social activities.
For more info, visit our resources page written by our dentists: Teeth grinding – How do I know I am grinding my teeth and how damaging is it to my teeth and how to prevent it?
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