A routine dental appointment often involves a clean known as a scale and polish. During a scale and polish your dentist removes plaque and tartar from places that are hard to reach with brushing and flossing, before polishing the surface of your teeth.
For most patients a scale and polish will remove the build-up of plaque and tartar but, for some people, the tartar may be causing gum disease. In this case the patient would need deep teeth cleaning.
Dentists recommend deep teeth cleaning for patients who have gum disease, particularly if it has progressed into periodontitis. Deep cleaning removes the build-up of tartar below the gum line. The treatment is done under local anesthetic. It does not hurt but the gums can feel sore afterwards.
On this page we look at deep cleaning at the dentist in more detail.
What is deep cleaning at the dentist?
Dentists recommend deep teeth cleaning (also known as dental scaling and root planing for patients who have gum disease when tartar has built up in the pockets between their teeth and gums and, in some cases, down to the teeth roots. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss or serious infections.
Deep cleaning involves removing plaque from areas of the teeth below the gumline to help reduce the gap between the teeth and gums caused by gum disease. The procedure differs from a regular scale or scale and polish, where your dentist removes plaque from above the gumline.
What’s involved in the process of deep teeth cleaning?
Deep cleaning at the dentist involves the following steps:
1. Pre-appointment diagnosis
Before having your deep clean, your dentist will have diagnosed you with gum disease by measuring the gap between your teeth and gums with a periodontal probe. If the gap is over 3mm then this is a sign of gum disease. Your dentist will also look to see if your gums bleed, if they are inflamed, or if any of your teeth are loose.
The three stages of gum disease are gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. Gingivitis can usually be treated without a deep clean but periodontitis and advanced periodontitis will require deep teeth cleaning.
Your dentist will usually request that you have your teeth x-rayed as periodontitis can cause bone loss, which will be evident on an x-ray.
2. Your first deep teeth cleaning appointment
Deep teeth cleaning is usually completed over two appointments. This is because your dentist will use local anesthetic to numb and treat one side of your mouth in each appointment. Numbing the entire mouth would make it difficult to talk or eat or drink after your appointment.
The dentist will use a numbing cream or inject local anesthetic into your gums to ensure you don’t feel any pain during the treatment. Your dentist will then use a small dental tool to remove tartar from below your gumline.
For areas that are hard to reach, or which have particularly stubborn tartar, your dentist may use an ultrasonic device which vibrates to dislodge plaque and tartar.
3. Your second deep cleaning appointment
During your second appointment, your dentist will treat the other side of your mouth using the same techniques as they did during your previous appointment. They will also review how the side of your mouth which has already been treated is feeling and recovering from the deep clean.
Each appointment will take at least an hour and could take as long as four hours. If you have a severe infection, you may need to have additional treatment in the form of antibiotic gel placed directly into the pocket between the teeth and gums.
You may also be given antibiotic tablets or a strong mouthwash to treat the infection.
4. Your follow-up deep cleaning appointment
When you’ve had both of your deep cleaning appointments, your dentist will book you in for a follow-up appointment around two weeks after your second appointment. During this appointment, your dentist will measure the size of the pockets between your teeth and gums to see if they have reduced.
Depending on the results of your deep clean, you may be referred to a specialist for further treatment.
How often is deep cleaning needed?
Deep cleaning is used to treat gum disease, usually when it has reached an advanced stage. In theory you should only need one deep clean, provided you maintain good oral hygiene after having your teeth deep cleaned. Regular visits for non-deep dental cleaning are also required to prevent gum disease from relapsing.
Are there any disadvantages to deep teeth cleaning at the dentist?
As with any medical procedure, deep teeth cleaning does have some risks. Although no research has been done on the disadvantages and side effects of deep teeth cleaning, issues may include sensitivity, bleeding, and sore gums for a week or so after the procedure.
Another potential disadvantage is the cost. Without insurance, deep teeth cleaning can cost between $150 and $350, plus the cost of anesthetic if needed. If you’re concerned about the cost of the procedure, speak to your dentist about payment options that could make the treatment more affordable.
Can teeth fall out after deep cleaning?
It’s very unlikely your teeth will fall out after having them deep cleaned. Some people may find that their teeth feel looser after having the treatment. This is because removing the tartar from the pockets between the gums and teeth creates a gap between the two, which can cause the teeth to feel loose. Over time, the gums should reattach to the teeth, making the teeth feel more secure.
Your dentist will take an x-ray before your deep cleaning so they can assess the extent of the damage and whether the procedure could potentially lead to tooth loss.
Does deep cleaning stop gum disease?
Having your teeth deep cleaned can help slow or stop gum disease. The treatment can reduce gum bleeding and help prevent tooth loss in people who have gum disease. Without treatment, gum disease can progress to the stage where more invasive treatments are needed, such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafts.
Treating gum disease as early as possible will give your teeth and gums the best chance of recovery. Once you have had treatment, having a good oral hygiene routine is the best way to ensure gum disease doesn’t return.
Is deep teeth cleaning painful?
Deep teeth cleaning can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. You dentist will give you a local anesthetic, either in the form of a gel or an injection, so you shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure.
In the week or so after your treatment you may find that your gums feel sore and swollen, and your teeth may feel sensitive. This is completely normal, and you can avoid making the pain worse by waiting at least 24 hours after treatment before brushing and flossing your teeth. Use a soft toothbrush and sensitive toothpaste to brush your teeth. Finally, avoid eating or drinking anything that may cause sensitivity, such as very hot or cold food or drinks.
If you’re concerned that you may have gum disease and would like to find out more about how deep teeth cleaning can help, speak to a member of our friendly team today. You can schedule an appointment by calling (410) 740-9400 or by clicking the Get Started button below.