What Is the Difference Between a Routine Dental Cleaning and a Deep Cleaning?

deep dental cleaning

Pretty much everyone knows how important it is to have routine dental cleanings to help prevent both cavities and gum disease. But what many people don’t know is that there are actually two types of cleanings — the routine cleaning you have (or should have) every six months and a much deeper cleaning that’s usually reserved for people with moderate to advanced gum disease. Even if you haven’t heard of a deep dental cleaning before, you might have heard it called by its “other” name — root planing and scaling. That’s a little more descriptive, but it still doesn’t describe what a deep cleaning does, or when and why it’s performed. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two types of cleaning and how to know which one you’re going to need.

Dental cleanings: What they are and how they’re done

Both routine and deep dental cleanings have one primary goal: To get rid of plaque and tartar deposits that can cause gum disease and other oral health problems. But beyond that, the two procedures are a lot different.

Routine dental cleanings

This is the type of cleaning you get when you visit Rifkin Dental for your regular six-month checkup. During a routine dental cleaning, your hygienist uses special tools to remove sticky plaque and hard tartar deposits from the surfaces of your teeth above your gums. These cleanings are very important for preventing gum disease and even for treating very mild forms of the disease (called gingivitis).

Routine cleanings are also a good time to ask your hygienist about areas of your mouth where your brushing and flossing routines need a bit of help, and your hygienist can also make sure you’re performing both those tasks correctly so you’re getting rid of as much plaque and tartar during your home routine as possible. In addition to preventing gum disease, having your teeth cleaned every six months also helps keep bad breath at bay. Routine cleanings are usually combined with a regular checkup to allow the dentist a chance to examine your teeth, perform an oral cancer screening and take X-rays if needed.

Deep dental cleanings

Like the name implies, deep dental cleanings provide your teeth with a deep cleaning, using special techniques to get rid of plaque, tartar and bacteria below the gum line and all the way down to your tooth roots. The bacteria that cause gum disease love to hide in hard tartar deposits on the surfaces of your teeth that are protected by your gums. As the bacteria multiply and grow, they release toxins that irritate your gums. 

Over time, your gums start to pull away from the surfaces of your teeth, creating tiny pockets that allow the bacteria to migrate all the way down to the roots. Infections around the lower part of your tooth can wind up weakening the roots, eventually causing your teeth to fall out. In fact, gum disease is the main cause of tooth loss among adults in the U.S.

Deep dental cleaning removes bacteria below the gum line and around the roots to prevent gum disease from advancing and causing tooth loss. Plus, your dentist will smooth (or plane) the surfaces of your tooth roots to make it harder for bacteria to “stick” to it in the future. Sometimes, an antibiotic gel is applied to the teeth during the cleaning to kill hard-to-reach germs; other times, oral antibiotics or a special antibiotic mouth rinse might be prescribed. Because it goes below your gum line, deep dental cleaning uses local anesthetics to numb your gums or, if your gums are very sensitive or you're anxious, sedation might be used to keep you calm and comfortable.

Stop gum disease in its tracks

Both routine dental cleanings and deep cleanings play important roles in preventing infection and tooth loss caused by gum disease. If it’s been awhile since your last cleaning at Rifkin Dental, don’t put it off any longer. Book an appointment online today.

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