Deep cleaning your teeth might sound like something you should do after you’ve missed a few visits to the dentist or eaten a particularly sticky, messy meal. A deep cleaning is actually a specific procedure performed by your dental hygienist to treat gum and periodontal disease. It’s often completed because a person has not had regular professional cleaning appointments every six months. We take a look at what a deep cleaning is and how it differs from a regular cleaning.

What is a deep cleaning and when is it needed?

A deep cleaning is needed when there is a large amount of tartar and bacteria under the gums. This occurs when there is a deeper space between the teeth and gums, called a “pocket.” Pockets can develop when a person has not had their teeth professionally cleaned for a long period of time or when the person does not brush and floss on a regular basis. At the dentist, the dental hygienist will use an instrument called a probe to measure the area around your teeth to see if you have any pocketing. The depth of the gum tissue between the teeth and gums are considered pockets when it is five millimeters or more. The American Academy of Periodontology recommends that every adult receive an annual periodontal evaluation to determine whether additional treatment is needed. Measuring pocket depth is just one part of a comprehensive dental evaluation. Ideally, normal healthy pockets will be no more than three millimeters deep. If the pockets are greater than 5 millimeters, your dentist might prescribe a deep scaling and root planing appointment with the dental hygienist.

What is the deep cleaning process?

Deep cleaning is also known in the dental world as scaling and root planing. Scaling involves removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth and from the pocket area between the teeth and gums. The other part of deep cleaning is root planing. The dental hygienist will use a scaling instrument to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the roots of your teeth. Scaling and root planing can be performed on one or two quadrants (quarter) of the mouth at a time, or the entire mouth can be treated in one visit, depending upon the diagnosis and recommendation of your dentist.

During the visit, your dentist or hygienist will typically numb the area to be treated. Next, they will carefully work under the gum line to clean away the calculus and debris. After this, your dentist will carefully shape, or plane, the root of the tooth, to remove places where bacteria can collect in the future.  Recovery from a scaling and root planing is typically simple. An antibiotic regimen is usually prescribed for you to follow, and an over-the-counter pain reliever may be recommended if you are experiencing any discomfort or tenderness in the treatment area. Your dentist will also provide you with aftercare instructions, and confirm with you when you should be able to resume a regular oral hygiene routine, including regular brushing and flossing. They may recommend you return for a checkup visit to make sure everything is healing well.

How do I care for my teeth after a deep cleaning?

Ideally, after this deep cleaning appointment, the bacteria in the pockets of the teeth will be removed and in the next few weeks the gums should become healthier if the person is doing oral hygiene every day. Your dental professional will recommend an optimal cleaning toothpaste. If an additional mouth rinse is required, your dentist might prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce bacteria in your mouth. If the deep scaling and visits to the dentist every three months aren’t enough to reverse periodontal disease, seeing a periodontist for a consultation should be required and determination of future treatment in regard to surgery should be considered.

How is a deep cleaning different than a regular cleaning?

A regular cleaning focuses on the surfaces of the teeth and between teeth above the gum line. A deep cleaning is needed in order to remove bacteria, calculus (tartar), and debris that has collected under the gum line. A regular cleaning polishes your teeth and may disturb the colonies of bacteria, releasing them into your bloodstream and into the rest of your body. A deep cleaning removes the bacteria colonies from your mouth.  That’s why there’s really no comparison between a deep dental cleaning and a regular cleaning.  The regular cleaning is designed for the maintenance of healthy gums. Healthy gums have a small, shallow space between the teeth and gums. The procedure involves going into the space and cleaning it thoroughly by removing bacteria and tartar build-up. When a person brushes and flosses daily and gets their teeth cleaned on a regular basis, the bacteria and tartar build-up are minimal. Healthy gums are pink in color, and there is generally little to no bleeding during the cleaning.

Do you have any questions about deep cleanings? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.