Ultrasonic dental cleaning is a technique that is available for the fast and effective removal of dental tartar. Common procedures used to clean the teeth and gums are dental scaling and root planing by hand. With hand scaling, the dentist uses a metal instrument known as a scaler to scrape away deposits on your teeth and under your gums.

How it Works

An ultrasonic scaler works by distributing ultrasonic vibrations that literally blast away dental calculus from your teeth. The tip of the instrument vibrates against the tooth, producing sound waves that break apart any hard calculus adhering to the tooth structure. Water flows out of the instrument to flush away debris and prevent overheating of the scaler. In addition, the combination of the vibrating tip with the water produces bubbles that rapidly form and collapse, breaking up the cell walls of bacteria.

During the ultrasonic cleaning procedure it is unlikely that you will feel vibrations or hear sound waves. But you will notice that your teeth feel cleaner as a significant amount of plaque is removed. The ultrasonic scaler also cleans in the areas below the gum line not usually accessed by ordinary hand scalers. The vibrations are gentle enough to avoid hurting your gums or teeth, as they blast away the hard calculus and stains.

Performing hand scaling after using an ultrasonic scaler is more effective than the single use of a hand scaler. The main job of ultrasonic cleaning is to remove large deposits of dental tartar, leaving your dentist to manually remove any last remaining deposits. In some cases the vibration of the ultrasonic interferes with the dentist’s tactile sensitivity. On the other hand, ultrasonic cleaning alone may be sufficient if very fine ultrasonic scaling tips are used, although this will lengthen the procedure slightly. In all, ultrasonic cleaning may not entirely do away with the need to use ordinary scalers, but they do reduce their use.

Indications for Use

Ultrasonic cleaning is recommended for people with a substantial accumulation of dental tartar or calculus. Dental plaque that is not removed forms the hard, yellowish or brownish substance of tartar, which may lead to tooth decay over time. Only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar from your teeth and gums. Ultrasonic cleaning is also helpful to remove heavy teeth stains like those resulting from smoking or drinking coffee.

Gum disease is caused by plaque accumulating beneath the gum line and attacking the surrounding gums and bone structure, possibly resulting in tooth loss. Ultrasonic cleaning is beneficial for treating gum disease. Through ultrasonic scaling, calculus deposits under the gums can be removed, thus reducing bleeding and swelling of the gum tissue. This scaling procedure comprises the first step in the prevention, treatment, and control of gum disease.

Benefits of Ultrasonic Cleaning

Both the dentist and patient may obtain several benefits from the use of an ultrasonic scaler:

  • Through more effective removal of dental tartar, the scaling procedure can save time.
  • It is often successful in preventing further progression of gum disease if used in the early stages of the disease.
  • It produces no pain and eliminates the need for local anesthesia.
  • Appearance of tooth stains can be reduced.

Due to its use of sound waves, ultrasonic cleaning may not be advised for patients with pacemakers. Tell your dentist about any medical conditions you have or any medications you are on before undergoing any dental procedure.