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What is a deep dental cleaning?

Posted on November 28, 2022 in Dental Health

If you have gum disease, you may need a deep dental cleaning. Learn what to expect during a deep den

Most people are familiar with regular cleanings at the dentist. However, patients are often surprised to hear that there are different levels of cleanings. In general, regular, preventive cleanings twice a year are enough to maintain good oral hygiene. But if bacteria, plaque, or other dental problems develop below the gum line, a deep dental cleaning may be necessary.

To learn more about what a deep dental cleaning is, when it is needed, and what to expect during the process, keep reading!

What is a deep dental cleaning?

Although brushing regularly can help reduce plaque build-up in your teeth, sometimes that build-up can become more severe and need an advanced level of dental attention. Did you know that when plaque is not properly cleaned, excess plaque can harden and form tartar, leading to more serious oral health issues? Dental providers use processes called tooth scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar in a deep dental cleaning.

Why do I need a deep dental cleaning?

Deep dental cleanings help prevent bacteria-causing illnesses such as periodontal (gum) disease. Not maintaining proper oral health habits can cause a build-up of plaque and, if not treated, can cause your gums to become inflamed. An inflamed gum opens up space for plaque to get trapped in the pockets between your teeth and gums, causing an infection called gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, painful chewing, red or bleeding gums,  receding gums, and loosened teeth.

It's important to note that only professional cleanings can remove tartar, so even if you are brushing and flossing regularly, it’s still essential to visit the dentist for a proper evaluation. Severe gum disease is painful, and if left untreated, can lead to bone and tooth loss and may require dental surgery.

What to expect during a deep dental cleaning

Dentists and periodontists use two techniques to accomplish deep cleanings. The first procedure is known as tooth scaling, which focuses on removing tartar from the surface of your teeth above the gum line. A provider will use either a vibrating instrument or a manual dental instrument to remove that tartar off your teeth during scaling. 

The second technique is root planing, which removes tartar build-up from the roots of your teeth below the gum line. The technique is similar to that of tooth scaling. By softly pushing aside gum tissue, providers can get underneath the gums, expose the roots, and use scaling tools to remove tartar.

It is up to your dentist and your needs whether your deep dental cleaning requires a local anesthetic. In some cases, more than one procedure may be necessary to remove all the tartar build-up.

Risks and benefits of deep dental cleanings

According to The National Library of Medicine, tooth scaling and root planing are considered the "gold standard" for most patients with moderate to severe gum disease. If you suffer from gum disease, a deep dental cleaning can help prevent the loss of gum tissue, teeth, and bone. 

Luckily, the risks of undergoing tooth scaling and root planing are minimal. You may experience some discomfort if having the procedures without anesthesia and the gum tissue may remain sensitive for a few days after the procedure. If you notice any worsening or lingering pain, contact your dentist.