Being in the dentist's chair is one of the most common fears in the modern world. And yet, really, there's absolutely nothing to be afraid of. One reason so many people have this particular phobia is that they had an unpleasant experience as a child, perhaps with the now-extinct breed of strict dentist that used to dominate the profession.

For many, though, it's simply that they don't really know what to expect. That isn't helped by the names of some treatments, the mere mention of which is enough to send a chill through many people. Once the mystery is removed, some of these nasty-sounding treatments suddenly don't seem so bad after all. Take, for example, the scale and polish.

What is this awful-sounding treatment?

As you know, plaque forms on the teeth and, if it's not removed, can build up and harden into tartar. Since plaque and tartar are so damaging to the teeth, brushing twice a day is recommended to keep them clean and stop these nasty substances building up. However, it isn't always easy to get rid of it all, which is where the scale and polish comes in.

Although it might sound unpleasant, it's really just a thorough cleaning of the surfaces of your teeth. Using various tools, including an ultrasonic cleaner, a dentist or hygienist will remove all of the plaque and tartar from the nooks and crannies of your teeth, leaving them clean and sparkling. They'll also get below the gum line to make sure there's no plaque hiding there. That's all there is to it; it's really nothing to dread.

Who needs to have it done?

If your dentist spots a problematic build-up, there's a good chance they'll recommend a scale and polish to clean it all up. This is one of the reasons regular check-ups are important, as they give the dentist chance to deal with problems before they become serious. Many dentists recommend their patients have a regular scale and polish regardless of how clean their teeth appear, so it might be worth booking in to have it done if possible.

Are there different types?

You might also be required to have a scaling and root planing session if you have signs of gum disease, which sounds even scarier than a scale and polish, but again, it's nothing to fear. It's just a deeper clean, getting to the roots of teeth, plus treatment to smooth them out and give bacteria fewer places to hide. It's normally done with a local anaesthetic, just to stop it being uncomfortable, but it doesn't involve surgery or anything like that.