Last updated on August 21st, 2019
A dental deep cleaning is a special type of cleaning usually performed by a dental hygienist when you have been diagnosed a gum disease. But, don’t be scared, because you’re not alone. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), almost 50% of American adults suffer from gum diseases. Deep cleaning is very different to regular teeth cleaning, either that which you’d do at home, or which you’d receive during a six-monthly checkup.
This article will go in-depth into what a dental deep clean is, why you’d need one, how it’s performed, how it’s different to regular cleaning.
What Is a Dental Deep Cleaning?
Dental deep cleaning is also known as scaling and root planing. The process is used to remove substantial plaque and tartar buildups around the teeth and their roots.
Plaque and tartar buildups on the teeth are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, which results in bacterial infections. As infections get worse in the mouth, they start creating larger “pockets” between the gum tissue and the tooth and tooth root. Scaling and root planing gets into these deep pockets to ensure all infected material is cleared out, allowing the mouth to heal and return to normal.
Why Do I Need Deep Teeth Cleaning?
In short, scaling and root planing restores oral health, which in turn can have positive effects on your overall health.
Infections in the mouth typically start as gum disease. This often presents as swelling and soreness in the gums, called gingivitis. If gingivitis isn’t treated, the infection progresses to what is known as periodontal disease.
Deep cleaning is used to treat patients with chronic gingivitis or periodontal disease. It does this by removing both the infected tissue and the plaque and tartar buildups that feed and support the bacteria, to begin with.
Periodontal disease is when the bone around the base of teeth starts to be eaten away by infection. In severe or untreated cases, this will eventually lead to teeth becoming unstable and falling out.
Scaling and Root Planing vs Regular Cleaning
Deep cleaning and regular cleaning involve many similarities, but several key difference. Before we said that scaling and root planing is used to restore oral health. Regular cleaning, by contrast, is used to maintain oral health. One is cure; the other is prevention.
Teeth naturally have small pockets between the tooth and gum. When you visit the dentist for a checkup, you’ll hear the dentist or hygienist reading numbers aloud. These are measurements of the size of the pockets around the teeth.
In a healthy mouth, these pockets should be about 3mm deep at most. In an infected mouth, they can be 5mm deep or more. This is because the bacteria is slowly breaking down the connective tissue between the gum and tooth. Anything over about 4mm requires a deep clean.
In both, a regular and deep clean, your dentist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and give you mouthwash.
Plaque and tartar build up naturally, even in people who are diligent with their brushing and flossing. The difference is that people who practice good oral hygiene build up plaque and tartar much, much slower.
Someone with good oral hygiene might take several years to reach the same level of buildup as what someone with poor hygiene achieves in a matter of months.
Scaling teeth during a regular dental cleaning is a relatively simple process, and the dentist can finish with that in one sitting. During a scale and root planing deep clean, the dentist needs to use more precise instruments and be more thorough. It can take you several trips to the dental clinic to complete a dental deep clean.
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After a regular clean the dentist might give you a fluoride mouthwash. After a deep cleaning, however, you may be given an antibacterial mouthwash.
This will prevent the removed bacteria from growing back anytime soon.
Teeth are also more likely to be sensitive after a deep clean than a regular clean, as the surfaces will have been thoroughly scraped of all bacteria, plaque, and tartar.
Scaling and Root Planing Procedure
Scaling and root planing, as mentioned above, can take several trips to the dentist to complete.
- Scaling involves removing plaque and tartar from the surfaces of teeth. This is performed with an ultrasonic cleaner that uses vibration to knock the bulk of the plaque and tartar deposits off the tooth. A cooling mist simultaneously blows onto the treatment area to keep the site clean and maintain an optimum temperature. There are no cutting edges involved; the instrument is designed to dislodge buildups without harming the tooth itself.
- The ultrasonic cleaner emits a high-pitched noise or hum that can irritate some patients. If the vibration of the teeth is incredibly uncomfortable, it’s best to let the dentist or dental hygienist know. In particular, people with sensitive teeth might find the process particularly unpleasant.
- Once the ultrasonic cleaner has removed all it can, fine hand tools are used to scrap away the remaining plaque and tartar deposits.
Depending on how severe the buildups are, it can take quite some time to properly knock them loose using the ultrasonic cleaner. That’s one of the reasons why a deep clean can take 2-4 sessions instead of one.
Root planing is similar to scaling, but it involves smoothing out the tooth roots to remove deposits and infected tissues. This is usually performed by fine hand tools such as cutters and curettes, as the ultrasonic cleaner generally won’t dislodge deposits under the gum line.
How to Treat Sensitive Teeth After Dental Cleaning
It’s common to experience sensitive teeth after any dental cleaning, but dental deep cleans almost always result in sensitive teeth. It’s also common for gums to bleed immediately following a dental deep clean, as inflamed gums bleed easily and relatively profusely.
After a scaling and root planing treatment, you must wait for at least 1 day before you resume flossing.
Brushing teeth is not only recommended, but it’s also important to be able to let your mouth heal fully. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be gentle when cleaning the teeth and gums.
Toothpaste that’s formulated for sensitive teeth should also be used.
Avoid eating foods that would trigger sensitivity, such as hot or cold drinks, ice cream, and certain foods.
If tooth sensitivity hasn’t started to die down after a few weeks, you should return to your dentist and let them know. Anything longer than 3-4 weeks of sensitivity is unusual and should be checked by a dentist or dental hygienist. They’ll be able to examine your teeth and gums and let you know if any complications need to be addressed.
What is periodontal maintenance?
Periodontal maintenance just means the maintenance of your teeth.
In terms of dentistry, it specifically refers to your regular six month cleans, also known as prophylaxis.
These regular cleans are used to clear teeth of plaque and tartar, check on the health of teeth and gums, and keep an eye out for any emerging problems.
Most people require a checkup every six months. Patients who have had dental deep cleans might require checkups more frequently to ensure infections don’t return and that the treatment has worked.
Very rarely, some patients only need a checkup every 12 months or so — but these are people who are diligent about personal oral hygiene routines at home.
Periodontal cleaning: Why you should do it?
Periodontal cleanings maintain good oral health. Maintaining your oral health is a much more manageable, affordable way of keeping your mouth — and the rest of you — in good shape.
By keeping the mouth in excellent condition, infections and diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease don’t get a chance to take hold.
Periodontal disease is a severe condition that can lead to tooth loss and even cardiovascular problems. Treating periodontal disease is much more invasive, uncomfortable and costly than preventing it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Periodontal Maintenance
The only real disadvantage to periodontal maintenance lies in making the time to attend scheduled checkups. Most people nowadays have busy lives, and it’s hard to organize it.
Aside from that, there is no disadvantage to periodontal maintenance. It’s an important tool to allow you to keep your mouth, and the rest of your body, happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Periodontal disease is a serious medical condition. It can cause severe complications for a wide range of other health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Losing a tooth to periodontal disease is never a good thing.
Periodontal maintenance will let you prevent periodontal disease from occurring. If you’re unfortunate enough to get periodontal disease, a dental deep clean will be your best bet to clear it up and restore your mouth to good health.
For patients with deep periodontal pockets, and those with chronic gum disease, the dentist may recommend deep cleaning which involves scaling and root planing.
Do nothing, however, and you’ll be compromising not just your mouth, but the rest of your body as well.