What Can a Deep Cleaning Do For My Teeth?


Has your dentist ever recommended a deep cleaning? There’s a big difference between regular, routine teeth cleaning and deep cleaning. A regular cleaning focuses on the surfaces of the teeth above the gum line. Dental deep cleaning is needed to remove bacteria and tartar from under the gum line. 

A deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing (SRP), is a procedure performed by your dental hygienist to treat gum and periodontal disease. It’s often needed if a person has not had regular professional cleaning appointments every six months.

Why Do I Need a Deep Cleaning?

If you have periodontal disease (gum disease), tartar has collected under the gumline creating a haven for bacteria to grow. The tartar cannot be removed by brushing, flossing, or routine cleaning. The presence of bacteria triggers an immune response, or inflammation, to fight the bacterial infection. If left untreated, the infection and inflammation will progress further under the gum line, resulting in loose teeth and bone loss. You may even lose one or more teeth. A deep cleaning procedure is needed to remove the tartar from under the gum line.

What Is Involved in a Deep Cleaning?

Your dental hygienist will use an instrument called a probe to measure the area around your teeth to determine the “pocket depth” or regions between the tooth and the gum where bacteria forms. Depending on the depth, a deep cleaning is prescribed.

SRP (scaling and root planning) has two parts.

Scaling involves removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth and from the pocket area between the teeth and gums.

Root planing removes plaque and tartar from the surface of the roots. The dental hygienist can use either electric or ultrasonic instruments or manual scaling tools.

Here’s what to expect:

  • The scaling and root planing procedure typically takes 45 minutes per quadrant or 90 minutes for half the mouth.
  • You will be anesthetized and comfortable during the treatment.
  • If you have been diagnosed with four quadrants of SRP, it will require a minimum of two visits about two weeks apart.
  • A third or follow-up visit, about six weeks later, is necessary to confirm that your gums and teeth are getting healthier. Bitewing x-rays and probe confirm that the sub-gingival tartar has been removed and there is no pocket depth.
  • After the SRP is completed, patients should have checkups every 3-4 months.

Depending on the severity of the problem, a patient may be referred to a specialist – usually a periodontist – for the procedure. In many cases, patients respond quite well to this “deep cleaning” and may not require more aggressive treatment.

Remember,  healthy teeth make a healthy smile!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in a comprehensive approach to dental care in his Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. When treatment plans include specialty work, he coordinates every step with the practitioners you choose from his referral network. Contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment.

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