Polishing After Scaling
Oral Health

August 2007
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp

It is always recommended to polish the tooth surface after it has been cleared of plaque / calculus through manual / sonic / ultrasonic scaling. 


Polishing After Scaling


a) Why should you polish teeth after scaling them?
b) What instrumentation is needed for this procedure?
c) What type of paste/gel should be used?


a) After a tooth has been scaled, the enamel surface is not as smooth as it was and this may attract more plaque and calculus after the procedure, which may accumulate quicker.  Secondly, it is impossible to remove all plaque through scaling the teeth, and polishing the tooth will remove any residual plaque.

b) A soft rubber cup (polishing cup) attached to a polishing hand piece (±5000 revolution per minute [rpm]) is ideal.  If the speed increase so does the heat generated by the procedure.  Ordinary hobby drills are often used by practitioners, but these tend to turn at around 20 000rpm, which is not ideal. Polishing bristles instead of cups can also be used, but tend to get the bristles dislodged and they may penetrate subgingivally.  A third method of polishing the teeth is by making use of a powder polisher.  These polishers work like small sandblasters where the polishing powder is added into a container and then sprayed onto the tooth surface under pressure.  Simply brushing the teeth with a toothbrush after scaling them is inadequate to polish teeth.

c) Polishing pastes contain abrasives like silica or calcium carbonate to help smooth the tooth surface.  Depending on the size of the particles in the paste it can be classified as fine, medium or coarse.  Furthermore, many contain fluoride to help restore the mineral balance in the enamel after a scale and polish.  Polishing pastes may also contain flavourants.

For everyday practice, fine – medium coarseness is sufficient, with fluoride. 
To prevent heat necrosis of the pulp, practitioners should apply polishing paste liberally so that there is always a protectant between the polishing cup and the tooth surface.  Care should be taken not to over polish a tooth and once the crown of a tooth has been covered with polishing paste, while polishing, the clinician should move on to the next tooth



   Back to top     |      Print this page   |     Bookmark this page