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My Dentist Told Me I need a “Deep Cleaning”

December 7, 2023

root planing deep cleaningDentists recommend a cleaning and check-up about every six months. While this is a great rule of thumb for most patients, some patients may need more frequent cleanings or a more in-depth cleaning called a ‘Deep Cleaning’. What is the difference? We’re glad you asked!

What is Dental Deep Cleaning?

While a regular cleaning often involves some scraping of tartar buildup from the surface of the tooth and near the gumline, a dental deep clean is needed when the tartar buildup has become so great that it has calcified or has penetrated below the gumline. Deep Cleaning can also be referred to as ‘scaling’ or ‘root planing’.

Who Needs a Deep Cleaning?

Deep Cleaning is the treatment of choice in patients with an infectious dental disease or diseases & issues affecting the gum tissue and underlying bone. This includes:

  • Periodontal Disease (Periodontitis)
  • Gingivitis
  • Pocket Formation
  • Halitosis (chronic bad breath)

Deep Cleaning is also a standard treatment for a patient who has a healthy bone level but has not had a regular dental cleaning for a significant amount of time (more than 1 year) and simply has the presence of moderate-severe amounts of calculus (tartar) present below the gum line.

scrape tooth

Knowing the Signs of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease (Periodontitis) typically starts with plaque left on the teeth and around the gum line.  When plaque mixes with saliva it creates calculus over time. Eventually, calculus which contains bacteria will irritate gum tissues by attaching to teeth and root surfaces and releasing toxins resulting in inflammation and infection of gums.  If untreated, this can ultimately lead to bone loss in the area that surrounds teeth or loss of teeth.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Tooth & Gum Sensitivity
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Receding Gums
  • Chronic Bad Breath (Halitosis)
  • Swollen or Puffy Gums
  • Formation of Deep Pockets
  • Loose Teeth
  • Smell of Infection or Appearance of Infection (pus in the gums)
  • Pain or Discomfort

Treating Gum Disease with Deep Cleaning

Scaling and root planning is the only nonsurgical treatment to help treat periodontal disease by mechanically removing all calculus and paired bacteria from teeth and root surfaces.  To properly diagnose the presence of periodontal disease in a patient, it is important to get necessary radiographs (X-rays) and detailed measurements of all gum tissues that surround teeth.  When bacteria reside in the mouth, it compromises the ligaments that attach gum tissue to root surfaces, therefore creating deeper pockets. Areas that measure greater than 3mm in depth are indicative of periodontal disease.  Overall these measurements are imperative to understanding the severity of this bacterial infection throughout the mouth.

In-office treatment for deep cleaning can be done by our skilled and professional dental hygienists at Alrez Family Dentistry in one or two visits.  These cleanings will be completed by Dr. Alrez or a dental hygienist by mode of ultrasonic scaler and/or hand instruments.  In addition to the deep cleaning, antibacterial agents such as Arestin placed under the gum tissue will help further reduce pocketing. We also use a Chlorhexidine rinse to reduce bacteria.  It is common to administer local anesthetic or other anesthetics for optimal patient comfort during and following procedures.

Keeping Your Gums Healthy

It is standard protocol to keep periodontally involved patients on 3 or 4-month recall intervals (instead of every 6 months for an average, healthy patient).  This means more frequent cleanings in a year to properly combat periodontal disease and ensure the stability of gum tissues and underlying bone. Every case varies, though periodic scaling and root planning may be needed after initial deep cleaning due to more compromised bone levels.  All patients must practice proper daily dental hygiene at home for the best overall outcome and health of teeth and surrounding structures. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of gum disease listed above, or it has been some time since your last dental cleaning, don’t wait any longer! Schedule your next appointment with Dr. Alrez and we will help your gums become healthier for years to come.