You probably think of deep cleaning your teeth as something that you do at home after a particularly messy meal or before you use a home whitening kit, or maybe something that you do before you go to the dentist (particularly if you’ve skipped a few appointments).
However, a deep teeth cleaning is actually a procedure that you have performed by a dentist or dental hygienist, not something you do yourself.
Deep teeth cleanings are meant to treat periodontal or gum disease; a deep teeth cleaning is often advised for people who haven’t had regular dental cleaning appointments for a while but it may be recommended for anyone who has gum disease or periodontal issues.
What Is A Deep Teeth Cleaning?
A deep teeth cleaning, also known as gum therapy and usually referred to by dental professionals as gum scaling and root planing, is a dental treatment designed to clean between the teeth and gums all the way down to the roots.
During a standard dental cleaning, a dental hygienist or dentist cleans the front, back, and sides of the tooth above the gum line.
This same process is performed during a deep teeth cleaning, but the dentist also continues down to the root of the tooth, below the gumline, removing tartar and other build-up from the “pocket” that have been formed between the root of the tooth and gums.
When you have gum disease, the pocket or space between the teeth and gums opens up, becomes wider and deeper, trapping tartar and plaque.
A healthy set of teeth and gums has a pocket or space that measures 3 millimeters or under, but if you have gingivitis or other gum problems the pocket gets wider.
Dentists often recommend a deep teeth cleaning if your gums have separated 5 or more millimeters away from your teeth and their roots.
Deep teeth cleanings usually require 2 or more visits to the dentist.
The first appointment will be for gum or perio scaling, and the second will be for root planing.
Typically, a local anesthetic is used to numb the mouth during both of these procedures.
A follow-up visit may be required several weeks after the deep clean to ensure that everything is healing properly and the results are satisfactory.
Deep Teeth Cleaning Process
A deep teeth cleaning or a dental deep cleaning procedure involves two parts – the first is gum or periodontal scaling and the second is root planing.
Both aspects of the deep teeth cleaning process can be performed using electric or ultrasonic instruments or manual dentist scaling tools, or a combination of the two.
A deep teeth cleaning generally involves two separate visits – the first for the teeth scaling and the second for the root planing.
The scaling part of the process removes all the plaque and tartar from below the gumline.
Next, there is the root planing, which involves using an instrument to clean and smooth the root of the tooth, and helps the gums reattach to the tooth, minimizing the size of the pocket or space that can trap unhealthy build-up.
Root planing, or the second part of the deep teeth cleaning procedure, requires that the dental hygienist use a scaling instrument to clean plaque, tartar, and other build-up from the roots of your teeth.
This helps smooth the root and lets it reconnect with the gums, reducing the size of the space between the teeth and gums.
Deep teeth cleaning is designed to treat gum diseases like gingivitis and prevent them from worsening and require surgery or other more extensive procedures.
Is a Deep Teeth Cleaning Necessary?
Typically, your dentist will recommend a deep teeth cleaning after examining your teeth and gums and taking X-rays to help assess the overall health of your mouth.
If your gums are diseased or your gingivitis has gotten to the point where they are pulling away from the teeth and creating pockets or spaces that expose the bone that are 5 millimeters deep or more, a deep teeth cleaning is often advised as the next step short of actual periodontal surgery.
Be aware that if your gingivitis or other gum problems aren’t resolved, it may progress into periodontitis, which results in the pockets between your teeth and gums becoming so deep, that the bacteria begins to affect the bone and supporting structures of your teeth.
If left untreated, it can even make your teeth loose – loose enough to fall out or require extraction.
Deep teeth cleaning can help reduce the size of the pockets and slow or halt the progression of gingivitis gum disease.
Are the Benefits of Deep Cleaning Teeth?
Deep cleaning teeth helps to prevent gum diseases such as gingivitis from getting worse.
Remember that we all have plenty of bacteria in our mouths, even when we have perfectly healthy teeth and gums.
Plaque forms naturally when those bacteria mix with food and other substances, but normally plaque is removed by regular brushing and flossing.
However, if plaque doesn’t get brushed away, it hardens and turns into tartar, which can only be eradicated by a professional dental cleaning.
If tartar remains on the teeth, it causes gingivitis, the condition where your gums become red and swollen.
If you have gingivitis, your teeth may bleed spontaneously, or when you brush and floss, even if you are being gentle.
Other signs of gum disease include persistent halitosis or bad breath, extra sensitive or increasingly sensitive teeth, loosening teeth, pain when chewing (especially harder or sticky foods), and a receding gum line.
All this is to say that if you have gum disease or inflammation of the gums like gingivitis caused by plaque and tartar build-up between your teeth and gums, a deep teeth cleaning can be a way to banish the build-up and restore your mouth to a healthier state.
Is Gum or Periodontal Scaling?
Perio scaling, gum scaling, or scaling teeth is the first part or first appointment when your dentist or dental hygienist removes all the plaque and tartar build-up from above and below your gum line, going all the way into the bottom of the pocket or space between your teeth and gums.
This is the first appointment in the two plus part deep teeth cleaning process.
What is Root Planing?
Root planing is the second part of the deep teeth cleaning process, and it involves smoothing out and cleaning the roots of your teeth.
This allows your gums to reattach to your teeth, which reduces the size of the pocket and helps your mouth return to its normal healthy state.
Root planing may require more than one visit in order to complete the process depending on the extent of the damage.
During both gum scaling and root planing, a local anesthetic will likely be used and your dentist may offer a mild sedative.
What Are the Side Effects of Deep Cleaning Teeth?
Deep teeth cleaning is a relatively low risk procedure, especially when performed by an experienced dentist or dental hygienist.
However, there is the possibility of fillings being loosened or popping out if you have any (but your dentist can likely repair that later), because of the process of cleaning, gum scraping, and scraping tartar off the teeth.
You could also risk an abscess if a minuscule piece of tartar becomes trapped between the tooth and the gums.
You may also have more sensitivity in your teeth and gums after the procedure, but that often goes away within 2 weeks with proper care and oral hygiene.
Is There Pain After Deep Cleaning Teeth?
Like any dental procedure, you may experience some pain, swelling, and soreness afterwards, and you may be numb from the local anesthetic for the rest of the day following your appointment.
You may lean towards a soft food diet for several days after having your teeth deep cleaned since your gums will be tender.
You may also want to avoid cold food or drinks due to heightened sensitivity.
In order to prevent infections and to help your gums heal, your dentist may prescribe antibiotic pills or a mouth rinse.
Always follow the after-care instructions provided by your dentist and be sure to call if you experience unusual amounts of pain or have any issues related to your deep teeth cleaning or teeth and gums.
You will have a follow-up appointment after the deep teeth cleaning process has been completed in order to check on your healing progress; your dentist may also advise that you get standard teeth cleanings every 3 months instead of the normal 6 months after your initial deep teeth cleaning.
How to Care for Your Teeth After Deep Teeth Cleaning
After getting a deep teeth cleaning, you need to be extra gentle and careful with your teeth and gums, keep them as clean as you can, and take any medications prescribed by your dentist.
You should be aware that if the deep teeth cleaning or gum scaling and root planing do not reverse the course of your gingivitis and you develop periodontitis, you may need more extensive treatment or surgery.
That said, you can help continue the healing process and minimize the need for future deep teeth cleanings and other procedures by maintaining good general dentistry services like cleanings, e.g. brushing and flossing on a daily basis and going for regular teeth cleanings on a six-month basis.
Of course, always consult your dentist if you have any questions and be sure to attend any follow up appointments and schedule regular cleanings in the future.