What Deep Cleanings Are Exactly and Why You Might Need One

Regular dental cleanings are a critical part of your oral hygiene routine. But many people don’t know there are different kinds of cleanings. If our dental hygienist says you need a deep cleaning, be assured you’re not alone. Sometimes a standard cleaning isn’t enough. Here is what you need to know about deep cleanings.

What is a Deep Cleaning?  

A regular dental cleaning is an extension of your routine home dental care. Its goal is to prevent cavities and maintain good gum health, so we will schedule one every six months or so. For a “regular” teeth cleaning, the hygienist will focus primarily on the teeth and above the gum line. It takes about 30 minutes and includes routine tooth scaling, debridement, polishing, a quick floss, and sometimes a fluoride treatment.

But, if things are going on below the gum line, a deeper cleaning might be needed. In this case, bacteria has gotten below the gum line and can cause more serious problems if not addressed quickly. A deep cleaning, sometimes referred to as scaling and root planing, is the treatment for this situation.


How is Deep Cleaning Different?

The goal of a dental deep cleaning is to stop the advance of gum disease. The dental hygienist will use special techniques to get rid of plaque, tartar, and bacteria below the gum line all the way down to the roots of your teeth. This type of cleaning will save your teeth from periodontal disease if caught early enough.

The plaque buildup on your teeth will be scraped off using a hand-held dental scaler both on the teeth and below the gum line. The hygienist may also use an ultrasonic tool with a vibrating metal tip and a water spray to wash tartar away.  Planing smooths the roots of the teeth, which makes it harder for bacteria to stick to them. Both of these techniques leave a clean, smooth foundation for the teeth rather than an environment ripe for the spread of more bacteria.

Deep cleaning can be uncomfortable due to the instruments getting below the gum line and onto the roots of the teeth. A numbing agent may be used during the cleaning to make it more comfortable for you. An antibiotic gel or special antibiotic mouth rinse is often provided to patients and is used to kill any germs left behind. Sometimes, oral antibiotics are prescribed for a short time. Depending on each patient, deep cleanings often require two appointments.

scaling vs root planing | deep cleanings | deep teeth cleaning

How Do I Know If I Need a Deep Dental Cleaning?

Pay attention to your teeth! Gum disease very often isn’t accompanied by pain or any visible symptoms. Here are some warning signs:

  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Loose permanent teeth
  • Bleeding gums; red, swollen, or sensitive gums
  • Gums that have separated from your teeth
  • Deep pockets between the tooth and gum

In most cases, it will be your dentist that diagnoses your need for a deep cleaning. During your regular check-up, a probe is used to measure pockets in the gums. A standard cleaning can treat shallow pockets but deeper pockets require a deep cleaning. Scaling and planning will be done to remove any infection and promote healing. X-rays are also used to monitor bone loss.

If caught early, the need for a deep cleaning can be a one-time occurrence. It must be followed with thorough home dental practices: brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, drinking water, and eating a healthy diet.

What Happens After a Deep Cleaning?

Your teeth may be more sensitive than usual. This sensitivity can last several weeks. You may also experience some slight swelling or bruising. Putting ice on the area can help, but call your dentist if you experience any major swelling after a deep teeth cleaning.

Some helpful after-care/at-home instructions include:

  • Don’t eat while your mouth is still numb.
  • Avoid certain foods after a deep cleaning, such as acidic foods, foods that require a great deal of chewing and tearing (steak, burgers, etc.), and hot foods.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication will help with any swelling or pain.
  • Take antibiotics that were prescribed.
  • Rinse with salt water.
  • Call your dentist if gum bleeding lasts longer than 48 hours.

saltwater rinse after teeth cleaning | deep cleanings | deep teeth cleaning

Source: VeryWell Health

After your deep cleaning is complete, a follow-up appointment will probably be scheduled for 4-6 weeks out. This is to determine if you are healing well and not experiencing any unusual pain or discomfort. Also, the pockets in the gums will be rechecked to make sure the gums are healing properly. Regular cleanings may be set more often in the future so there won’t be any further need for deep cleanings.


TLC Dental Center Can Help Keep Your Teeth as Clean & Healthy as Possible

At TLC Dental Center, we are committed to protecting the teeth of our patients. If you have questions or are concerned about the process, don’t hesitate to let us know. We are here to help and will explain everything honestly and with compassion. 

Contact us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment!