Many patients may have heard the term deep cleaning and believe that to be the work that their hygienist performs every six months. However, deep cleanings are not the same as the routine cleanings that are being performed. Deep cleanings are generally conducted after patients have missed their regular cleanings for a long period of time and are used in order to correct any periodontal or gum disease.
When you go to the dentist, your hygienist will use a probe in order to assess how much bacteria or buildup there is on or around the teeth. The depth of the gum tissue that lies between the teeth is called pocketing if there are more than 5 millimeters between the gums and teeth. This can be a concern because pocketing provides areas that harbor bacteria which can harm your teeth and deteriorate the enamel.
In the case that your hygienist measures pockets that are 5 millimeters or greater, it is likely that your dentist will suggest that you receive a deep cleaning which is typically arranged as a separate appointment.
Deep cleaning is a straightforward service that you will schedule with your hygienist. The appointment time will vary depending on the level of work that needs to be performed. Deep cleaning involves two processes — scaling and root planing.
Scaling is the process of removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the tooth and from within the pockets between your teeth and gums. Your hygienist will use a small tool or an electronic ultrasonic instrument to scrape away any buildup on the tooth and remove it with a rinse or flossing.
After the scaling has been completed, your hygienist will then perform the root planing which involves the same tool types as scaling but focuses on the root of the tooth. By ensuring that the root is clean and free of debris or buildup, it allows the gums to naturally heal back over the roots and eliminate or reduce the pocket size.
Deep cleaning typically involves at least two appointments, but your dental office may schedule follow-up appointments to ensure that your mouth is healing and the pocket size is getting smaller or if any additional work is required.