Regular dental cleanings are an essential part of maintaining good oral hygiene, but did you know there are different levels of cleaning? Sometimes, a standard cleaning by a dental hygienist isn’t enough. If bacteria invade below your gumline, you’ll need a deep dental cleaning to restore your gums to health.
How is dental deep cleaning different from a regular cleaning?
Routine dental cleanings focus on teeth at and above the gum line. These non-invasive cleanings are recommended for most patients every six months and play a critical role in maintaining good oral health. Dental deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, involves special techniques to get rid of plaque, tartar, and bacteria below the gum line down to your tooth roots. This prevents gum disease from advancing and causing tooth loss. Overall, the goal of a regular cleaning is preventative maintenance and the goal of a deep teeth cleaning is to stop the progression of gum disease.
How do I know if I need deep dental cleaning?
Deep cleaning is not necessary for every patient. However, for patients with gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease) or a more serious case of gum disease, deep cleaning may be required to prevent tooth loss and stop further damage.
Gum disease doesn’t always cause pain or show visible symptoms, which is why it can be difficult to know when you need a deep cleaning. However, some warning signs to look out for include:
- Consistently bad taste or breath
- Separating or loose permanent teeth
- Gums that easily bleed
- Gums that are swollen, red, or tender
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
Your dentist can also diagnose the problem at your regular check-up by using a probe to measure any pockets that have formed in the gums. They may also take x-rays to check for bone loss. If pockets are deeper than what can be treated with a standard cleaning and good at-home care, you will need deep cleaning to clear the infection and promote healing. You may need scaling and planning in just a few spots or the problem may be widespread.
What does a deep cleaning entail?
In scaling, your periodontist will use a hand-held dental scaler to manually scrape the plaque from your teeth above and below your gum line. They may also use an ultrasonic tool with a vibrating metal tip, plus a water spray to wash tartar away. Root planning is more of a rubbing motion, used to smooth rough spots on the roots of your teeth to make it harder for bacteria to stick to them in the future. Sometimes an antibiotic gel is applied to the teeth during the cleaning to kill hard-to-reach germs; other times, oral antibiotics or a special antibiotic mouth rinse might be prescribed. Unlike routine dental cleanings, this treatment requires two appointments, which allows us to treat half of your mouth at each visit.
Does a deep cleaning hurt?
Scaling and planing can cause some discomfort, so a local anesthetic will be used to numb your gums during cleaning. Afterward, your gums will likely be a bit tender and might bleed slightly when you brush your teeth the first couple of days following the procedure. Your teeth may also be sensitive to hot or cold the first few days following treatment. Occasionally, it may take a few weeks before all sensitivity fades. Your dentist can recommend a mouth rinse or an over-the-counter pain reliever and desensitizing toothpaste can also help.
What happens after the procedure?
After a deep cleaning, you will be given home care instructions based on your individual situation. An appointment will likely be scheduled 4-6 weeks later to ensure you’re healing well. We may also suggest more frequent regular cleanings for a defined period of time. This is to prevent new infection and promote healing. You will continue to have the pocketing measured to ensure your gums are improving. Most patients respond very well to deep cleaning and, with good after care, see rapid improvement in the condition of their gums. Over time, pockets will shrink and your gums will be restored.
Learn More About Deep Cleanings
If your dentist has recommended a deep cleaning, or you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease, don’t wait to contact our office. Give us a call and our team will be happy to answer any questions.