Let’s set the scene for you: You’ve come to the dentist’s office for a regular cleaning. Perhaps it has been a while since the last visit to your local dentist in NC. Using a dental mirror, your dentist will have a look around your mouth, inspecting your teeth, and they may decide that you need a additional cleaning, but you’ll need to come in for an additional appointment.
In this case, your dentist would likely be referring to a deep cleaning. This is different from a routine cleaning, which is meant to maintain good oral hygiene. Though you might be thinking that this is some kind of upsell, rest assured—a deep clean is very much an established dental treatment. Its technical term is “scaling and root planing,” and it has been part of dentists’ standard procedure for a long time.
How’s a Deep Clean Different Than Routine Dental Cleaning?
So what exactly is a deep clean and how does it differ from a normal dental cleaning? And most importantly, how do you know if you need it? During a regular cleaning, hygienists will use an instrument called a probe to measure the area around your teeth for pocketing. These are areas between the gum and the teeth where bacteria can gather. Normal pockets should be no more than three millimeters deep. If you have pockets deeper than five millimeters, your dentist will likely order a deep scaling and root planing appointment.
Deep cleans often involve some sort of localized anesthesia. During a deep clean, a dentist or hygienist will use their tools to scrape away tartar and plaque that has developed around the teeth on the surface of the enamel under the gums. This differs from a regular cleaning, during which a professional will only clean along the gum line. They’ll also reach up along the roots of your teeth to your softer cementum, which they’ll smooth down to prevent plaque from forming in uneven spaces.
After the scaling and planing has been completed, your hygienist will brush your teeth using an electric toothbrush. It may sound a little loud, but using this brush is essential after a deep cleaning. If they don’t do it automatically, speak to the hygienist about flossing for you. Flossing at home is crucial to good dental hygiene, but having a professional attend to your teeth with floss is really helpful. At this point, you’ll rinse with a liquid that has some fluoride in it before you’re all set. A follow-up appointment might be necessary to measure pocket depth and determine whether your gums and teeth are getting healthier.
Why Do Dentists Insist on Deep Cleans?
Deep cleaning is all done in order to protect the health of your teeth, gums, and jaw. Plaque and tartar left untreated can evolve into periodontitis, a form of gum disease. Progressive periodontitis can lead to bone loss as well as chronic and systemic infection and inflammation. Periodontitis is a chronic infection usually due to infrequent flossing and inadequate oral hygiene. Bacteria will have collected in the pockets and spaces below the gum line, and they will secrete an acid that can dissolve the bone tissue that connect your teeth and jawbone.
If left untreated, periodontitis will continue to progress. It can cause you to lose teeth, and your jaw bone may suffer bone loss that cannot be restored. A chronic infection would be treated immediately anywhere else in your body, and your mouth should be no different.
Deep Cleans vs. Regular Cleaning
Comparing a deep clean to a regular dental cleaning is kind of like comparing apples and oranges. If deep pockets of bacteria are present, your dentist might refuse to do a regular cleaning, opting instead to schedule you for a deep clean. This is because regular cleanings can disturb the bacteria colonies existing in your mouth and may release them into your bloodstream.
Why is Deep Cleaning Necessary?
Dentists are serious about periodontitis and not just because it affects nearly half of all adults in the United States over 30. Periodontitis can have adverse effects on your health, impacting issues such as heart disease, COPD, other inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and pregnancy. For pregnant women, this is doubly important—gum disease has been linked to babies with low birthweight and preterm births. It may be frustrating to hear “no” from your dentists during a scheduled appointment, but trust us, your health may depend on it.
Most if not all patients experience a lot of relief after they’ve had a necessary deep clean. Brushing is often much less painful afterwards, and bleeding decreases drastically. If you have financial worries about this procedure, don’t hesitate to talk to our staff. Most insurance companies will cover a deep cleaning, and we file with all major insurance providers. Additionally, we are willing to set up a payment plan so that all people can receive the dental work they deserve.
Periodontitis is a serious condition that can result in the loss of both bone and teeth, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent this infection from progressing. You should visit your dentist regularly to receive cleanings and allow them to measure your gum pockets. If you don’t have a regular dentist in the Asheville area, get in touch with us to learn more. We are always happy to see new patients and our doctors are well trained in assessing periodontitis and deciding whether or not a deep cleaning is right for you.