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Why Do Kiwis Swear By Scale And Polishes From Their Dentist?

Our oral health – meaning the health of our teeth, gums and mouth – is something that is well-known for being a significant expense when things go wrong – like when fillings and root canals are needed. While we know that seeing a dentist every year for a check-up is important so that we can tackle problems early before they become expensive and invasive, one other service that many kiwis are ensuring they book in as part of this appointment, is a scale and polish. This not only keeps the teeth and gums in great condition but leaves a fantastic clean mouth feeling.

So what exactly is a scale and polish, should you be booking one in alongside your dental exam, and how can you pay for it even if you don’t have the upfront funds? Here’s everything you need to know about how a scale and polish can boost your oral health, and lower the cost of your dentistry bill.


What Are The Benefits Of A Scale And Polish?  

No matter how well you clean your teeth, there will always be hard-to-reach areas that are tricky to keep clean. In these areas, plaque bacteria can build up and may eventually form a tough, crusty deposit called calculus or tartar, which is impossible to remove by brushing alone. If not removed, more plaque can build up around the tooth and under your gum line, which can lead to gum disease.

To reduce the risk of gum disease or to help stop it from becoming more serious, dentists recommend booking a professional clean, called a scale and polish, which removes deposits such as plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces. Over time, this can prevent your chance of developing cavities (holes in your teeth), bad breath, gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease), and periodontitis (severe gum disease). As well as this, a scale and polish can significantly improve the cosmetic appearance of your teeth, helping to remove yellow staining, particularly around the gum area.


What Does A Scale And Polish With The Dentist Involve? 

A scale and polish is a simple yet comprehensive cleaning procedure carried out regularly by dentists and dental hygienists. The treatment involves two steps:

1. Firstly a scale involves a scraping action to remove the build-up of plaque and tartar around your teeth, between teeth gaps, and where your teeth meet your gums. This is normally done by using a specialised piece of equipment which oscillates, or spins, at high speeds. The instrument has a sharp tip and uses a powerful jet of water to remove plaque and calculus. Sometimes these stains can be stubborn, and may require some extra work and treatment, and may require other tools to remove them. If you have significant gum disease with swollen or infected gums, you may find this slightly uncomfortable, and if this is the case, your dentist can offer local anaesthetic before the procedure.

2. Secondly, your dentist will carry out the polish. This is a very thorough clean of your teeth using a rotating pad and dentist-grade toothpaste. Your dentist will polish all areas of your teeth, including hard to reach areas which are normally difficult to reach at home, including around fillings and crowns. Polishing helps to further remove stains, and will leave your teeth feeling incredibly clean.


Should I Book A Scale And Polish? 

Most dentists and hygienists recommend scaling and polishing for most patients at their yearly checkups, as a key part of maintaining their dental health. It’s also recommended for those that have not seen a dentist regularly, or have recently had braces removed, that may have made keeping your teeth clean difficult. Some other signs that you may need to book a scale and polish may include: 

  • Bleeding gums: One of the earliest signs of plaque beneath the gum line is bleeding when you brush or floss. Even small amounts of bleeding that result from following your daily oral hygiene routine, it’s a sign that bacteria are living below the gum line and damaging the roots of your teeth. Cleaning your teeth with scaling procedures removes harmful plaque so that the bacteria are less likely to come back in the future, especially if you continue to brush and floss.
  • Visible gum recession: If you notice your gum line shrinking or pulling back around your teeth, we recommend booking an appointment with your dentist, as any visible recession could indicate pockets forming around your tooth roots. You need tight pockets to hold the roots of your teeth securely as you bite and chew, so most dentists recommend a scaling procedure on any tooth that returns more than a four-millimetre reading during a checkup, to prevent root damage and tooth loss. 
  • Inflamed tissue: If you notice redness and swelling around certain teeth, this is an early sign of gingivitis. Scaling can remove the harmful deposits of plaque and smooth out your tooth roots so that plaque can’t settle in the same places so easily in the future.

Scale And Polish – Without The Upfront Cost

While a lot of oral health problems are preventable through a combination of good oral health practices like brushing and flossing twice daily paired with attending regular dentist visits where x-rays and professional checks are performed, getting to the dentist every six months as per the NZ guidelines, or even annually, can be financially very difficult. 

This is where health promotion that encourages regular checks and cleans can feel conflicting – many kiwis are fully aware that delaying or avoiding their checkup, scale and polish will cost them significantly more money in the long-term, but simply don’t have the means to afford an appointment at the current time.

This is where New Zealand’s leading health-focused Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platform, HealthNow, has stepped in to bridge this gap at no cost to health consumers. Used as an app on your smartphone, your total appointment cost with the dentist, including your scale and polish, and other services and any dental products, is split over up to twelve weeks, leaving your upfront cost at only a fraction of what it would otherwise be.

Unlike other BNPL services that charge fees or interest, which further disadvantage those that are in pain and are trying to be proactive about their health, HealthNow remains completely free to users, and dental clinics, as well as oral hygienists, still get paid in full by HealthNow on the day of the visit. This win-win platform is transforming healthcare access for New Zealanders, enabling them to get the best outcomes for their health by not being forced to delay their care.


To start using HealthNow and claim your $10 credit when you first create an account to use on any health service, sign up here. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, including a health wallet to store funds set aside for health services that can be contributed to by others including your employer. 


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