What to Know About Deep Dental Cleanings


Regular brushing, flossing, and professional dental cleanings are all part of normal oral hygiene. However, depending on the state of your gums and teeth, your dentist may recommend a deep dental cleaning to remove calcified plaque, known as calculus or tartar, from below the gum line. If you believe you may need a deep cleaning, keep reading to learn more.

Who May Need a Deep Cleaning?

Almost everyone has gingivitis. By definitions, gingivitis starts when gum tissue bleeds with manipulation. When bleeding gums are accompanied by bone loss from around the teeth, you have entered the realm of periodontitis. In most cases, patients who need a deep cleaning are those suffering periodontitis. Although gum disease is one of the leading causes of gingival recession, other factors can irritate your gums, causing the tissue to wear away or pull away from the teeth. These include your genes, aggressive tooth brushing, poor dental care, grinding, crooked teeth, and tobacco consumption. Also, periodontitis has been shown to be linked to heart disease, diabetes, and low birth weight.

As part of your professional dental cleaning and exam, a probe is used to measure the depth of the pockets around your teeth. The pockets around your teeth can be influenced by two factors, or a combination of them. First, if your gum tissue is inflamed, the pocket may be artificially enlarged because the gum tissue stand higher. This is also known as a pseudo-pocket.  Secondly, bone loss will cause the probe to drop lower below the gum line. A pocket of 3 to 4 millimeters or less is not usually a concern. However, if the pocket is deeper, you and your dental team need to work together to determine how to fix the pocketing. Leaving them untreated will only allow more bacteria to enter, which further irritates the gums, causing more bone loss.  If this continues, you could lose your teeth because of a lack of support for your teeth.

If the pockets are deeper than 4 millimeters, the dentist may recommend a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planning.  This is usually done over the course of multiple appointments with a re-assessment appointment about a month after treatment.

When you do get a deep cleaning, your dentist will want you to continue excellent oral hygiene at home, with proper brushing and flossing.  Also, with a history of periodontal disease, more frequent cleanings at the dental office will also be recommended.

What Happens During a Deep Cleaning?

The process to measure the pockets is not overly invasive, but the deep cleaning may be a little uncomfortable. Since your gums are probably already tender from irritation, this can make a deep cleaning somewhat unpleasant.  For this reason, the dental professional will often numb the area first so you will not feel any discomfort during treatment.

The dental professional begins by cleaning, or scaling, the tooth. They scrape away all the plaque, tartar, and bacteria (just like in a normal dental cleaning). The professional, however, does not just clean above the gum line. The pockets expose the tooth’s root, which is comprised of a different material than the crown of the tooth.  This material is called cementum. Cementum is not as hard as enamel and unlike enamel, cementum has some nerve input.  To reduce the risk of decay and stop irritation, the dental professional uses thin tools to clean the tooth’s root below the gum line.

Once the tooth is clean, however, your dental professional is not done. Teeth can develop rough spots, especially on the root once pockets develop. These rough spots retain plaque and tartar because it is easy for these materials to cling to the rough patch.

If this is the case, the dental professional will also perform root planning.  This is typically done with a traditional scaler or a laser. This simply means that the dental professional takes away any rough patches, giving the tooth a smooth finish to help let plaque slide off easier. After the procedure, expect your gums to feel tender with potential bleeding.

Deep dental cleanings may not be the highlight of your day, but they can help protect your teeth and overall health. If left untreated, the pockets continue to grow, further increasing the chance of infection, decay, tooth loss, and gum disease. A deep dental cleaning is a great first step or solution to gum recession.

If you would like to know more about gum recession, treatments, and preventative measures, contact us at Silverstone Family Dental today.