What Happens During Deep Teeth Cleaning?
If you have gum disease, your dentist might recommend a deep teeth cleaning to halt its progression. When gum disease is left untreated, it spreads into the other oral tissues, including the connective ligaments and bone, gradually destroying these oral tissues and leading to tooth loss and bone loss. When intercepted early, the ravages of gum disease can be stopped in their tracks. One tried-and-true method of intercepting gum disease is deep teeth cleaning, technically called scaling and root planing. While regular brushing and flossing and routine dental cleanings can remove bacterial plaque and calcified tartar above the gum line, a dental deep cleaning focuses on plaque and tartar that have accumulated below the gum line, in the pockets that form between the gums and teeth when the gums are inflamed from disease. As these pockets form, they trap debris and plaque, which causes continued inflammation; as inflammation increases, the depth of these pockets increases, and, eventually, the roots of the teeth and the bone that support them are invaded by plaque and the toxins it emits. This results in tooth and bone loss. Once gum disease has developed, the best way to prevent this avalanche of dental destruction is with a deep teeth cleaning.
Deep teeth cleaning involves two distinct treatments: gum scaling, and root planing. The procedure generally requires at least two appointments, if not more, so that only a portion of the mouth is numbed at each visit, and each visit usually takes about an hour or two, though some last longer. Once the treatment area is sufficiently numbed, the dentist will use a fine-tipped, narrow dental tool to remove tartar that has accumulated below the gum line, scaling the surface of the teeth to scrape away buildup without damaging the gums. Many dentists also use ultrasonic tools to break up tartar and help remove it from the teeth.
After the surfaces of the teeth have been thoroughly cleaned of tartar and plaque, the dentist uses a different set of tools to reshape the root surface of the teeth, planing away any roughness that might attract additional plaque buildup and interfere with the healing and reattachment of the gums. Combined, these treatments used in a deep teeth cleaning help reduce the pockets that form in the presence of gum disease and facilitate the reattachment between the gums and the teeth, fostering a healthy, stable environment optimized for continued gum and tooth health, strength, and stability. If you have gum disease that has caused your gums to pull away from your teeth, and if the pockets that have formed are five or more millimeters deep, your dentist may recommend a deep teeth cleaning for you.
While the dental deep clean is one of the most effective methods for stopping gum disease from progressing, it does come with some risks. As with any medical procedure, there is a risk of infection following treatment; additionally, because of the proliferation of bacteria in plaque, deep teeth cleaning could release bacteria into the bloodstream, and antibiotics may be prescribed. Your dentist will use a topical or local anesthetic during the procedure, to keep the gums numb as they meticulously scrape the area. It’s common for patients to experience some swelling, sensitivity, and minor bleeding following a deep teeth cleaning, but these symptoms can be expected to subside within a week; of course, if symptoms persist, contact your dentist.