How to scale a crown

June 29, 2022
Crown margins make perfect hiding places for bacteria, so dental hygienists have to be sure to care for these areas. Here's how to correctly scale a crown.

Think back to your very first day of patient care in dental hygiene school. Can you remember that day, or have you blocked it out of your memory?

I definitely remember my first patient. I went to dental hygiene school in a different country than where I grew up, so I had a new friend come in and be my first patient. I was a young dental hygiene student, and even though I had been a dental assistant previously, my knowledge of dentistry was pretty limited, especially when it came to restorative work. This patient’s teeth looked different, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Even after asking some probing questions and spending a good several hours on the assessment like we do when we’re first learning, I couldn’t figure it out and let my instructor know I was ready for an assessment check.

When she came over to take a peek, it turned out had anterior veneers, and several crowns on the posterior teeth. Ugh! Of course. I learned a lot that day on what a crown looks like and how to instrument around a crown, even though I did lose points on that assessment more than 14 years ago.

The tricky thing about crowns, bridges, or any restorative work is they are all slightly different. Each are made slightly differently, especially as labs, materials, costs, and schools of thought change. Plus, as patients come from other countries, you’ll probably see different dental work that you haven’t run into before.

However, you can take what you’ve learned about crowns and apply them to anything you end up running into during a clinical day. Check out our video from Hygiene Edge that explains a bit more about crowns, and how to carefully instrument around them for the best biofilm and calculus removal. Also, a reminder about crowns—if it comes off during scaling, it obviously had a problem and needed to come off! It’s better to come off in the office where it can be fixed or reassessed, instead of it popping off on a Saturday night during dinner.

You got this!

Hygiene Edge was created from 3 dental hygiene educators who love both dentistry and education. With over 40 years of experience both in the education space and in the dental field, Melia Lewis, Jessica Atkinson, and Shelley Brown love sharing their knowledge online through helpful, short videos online, speaking, and working with amazing companies. You can find more information at Hygiene Edge, on YouTube (, and Instagram (@hygieneedge). Have a question or a tricky area? Let us know! We’d love to help.