What is a Deep Cleaning?

 In Dental Care

My Dental Hygienist told me I need a deep cleaning.

Now what?!

So you’ve finally made time for your routine cleaning and check up! Maybe you’re a few months behind (or years, it’s ok, you’re not alone!), no big deal right? Life gets busy! You recline in the plush dental chair, have some x-rays taken and your hygienist tells you that you need a deeper cleaning than normal. Suddenly, the last several months of your life run through your head like a movie reel. You begin to question all of your dental hygiene habits! No? Not you? Ok, moving on. So let’s talk about when and why a deep cleaning is necessary, what exactly happens during the cleaning and what your dental visits will look like after.

When and why?

A deep cleaning is necessary when there is active periodontal disease, or periodontitis, in the mouth. Periodontal disease is characterized by deep pocket depths, inflamed and bleeding gums, bone loss and eventually tooth loss.  According to the ADA, deep cleaning is advised as the initial treatment for chronic periodontitis. “Chronic periodontitis is a prevalent condition, affecting 47.2% of the adult U.S. population aged 30 years or older.” Click here to read more about ADA recommendations mentioned in this post!


What happens during the cleaning? 

In the dental field, the technical term for a “deep cleaning” is Scaling and Root Planing. To put it simply, when there is calculus (hardened food, plaque, etc.) present below your gum tissue that you can no longer access at home and we cannot access with a routine cleaning, a deep cleaning is indicated. You will receive some sort of anesthetic to keep you comfortable during your visit. In some cases, an injected anesthetic is used; however, we try to use a numbing jelly whenever possible to avoid the extra stick to our patients! After you are numb, our highly skilled hygienists will use hand and ultrasonic scalers to remove the plaque resting on the root surface of the tooth.

Deep cleanings are most often split into two visits. Each half of the mouth is completed separately. The visits usually last about an hour. It is imperative to complete both halves as closely together as possible so that one side does not re-infect the other side. We recommend our patients come back no more than two weeks after the initial appointment to complete the remaining half.

What’s next?

You might experience some post operative soreness immediately following the cleaning. This is normal and will subside quickly. Your hygienist will recommend you be seen every three to four months for a periodontal maintenance visit. The main difference between the “regular” cleaning and the periodontal maintenance visit is the nature of the cleaning. The regular cleaning, also called a prophylaxis, is preventive in nature and the periodontal maintenance cleaning is therapeutic in nature. (Read more here!) The periodontal maintenance cleaning is intended to stabilize chronic periodontitis – decreasing pocket depths, eliminating bleeding upon probing and putting a stop to bone loss. While the prophylaxis is just intended to remove stain and calculus above the gum line.

If you are diligent with your home care, meaning you brush and floss daily and stay current with your professional dental cleanings, it is likely that you will be able to return to the routine cleanings as long as the periodontal disease has stabilized. In the future additional deep cleanings might be necessary if the condition has not stabilized.

Please watch the video below as it is a great, simple resource that helps to explain exactly what happens during the cleaning!

A deep cleaning is the first tool in our arsenal for treating periodontal disease! The periodontal disease frequently stabilizes and further loss of bone is avoided, when combined with excellent home care and frequent professional dental cleanings. Please contact our office or your nearest dental professional for evaluation if you have any concerns regarding your dental health or deep cleanings.

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