Deep cleaning teeth: your guide on deep cleaning at the dentist

Table of Contents

This is the first step of your 4 parts journey into the complete guide on deep cleaning teeth.

There is spring cleaning when we deep clean every nook and cranny of the house. Now imagine the same for your mouth. So what is a deep teeth cleaning?

Deep cleaning, which is also known as scaling and root planing, is when the dentist gets rid of tartar and the buildup of plaque on your teeth and in your gum pockets. First, there is gum scaling which is the removal of tartar and plaque that might have hardened and calcified from above and under the gumline. Next is root planing, which is smoothing out the roots of teeth so the gum tissue attaches to the teeth easily.

What is a deep teeth cleaning?

Deep teeth cleaning is a procedure in which your dentist cleans tartar and plaque buildup. In this process, your dentist will assess and check your gums and teeth to see which type of deep cleaning is suitable for you. The two main types of deep teeth cleaning are:

  • Prophylaxis cleaning: This is a dental procedure that cleans all parts of the mouth. Prophylaxis stands for “disease prevention”. It is performed to clean your teeth thoroughly as a preventive measure.
  • Scaling and root planing: This is a periodontal non-surgical procedure, also known as deep cleaning. The first step is to clean out the plaque formation from teeth, and gumline by using a scaler. Then, the dentist or periodontist gets rid of the bacteria in the gum pockets. After the scaling process is done, the dentist removes tartar and plaque buildup from the root surfaces.

Deep cleaning has many advantages when it comes to preventing gum diseases and bad breath. You may want to consider getting a deep cleaning if you want healthier teeth roots and gums.

We will talk about all of them in more detail but first, we are going to give you the general information you will need to know to understand the procedure better. We want you to comprehend what a deep cleaning is, and how it differs from regular teeth cleaning.

Pros of deep teeth cleaning

So far we have talked about the deep teeth cleaning procedure and how it is done. But why do we do it? We do it because it helps keep our dental health in peak condition. Now you might be wondering if there are any advantages to deep teeth cleaning. In fact, yes there are.

  • Prevents gum disease advancement: Plaque is bacteria that sticks to your teeth. The sticky plaque existing in your gum line can cause cavities and gingivitis. Going through a deep teeth-cleaning process helps prevent these issues from happening.
  • Gets rid of bad breath: It helps with bad breath. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you brush your teeth or scrub your tongue the accumulation of plaque can be the reason for your bad breath.
  • Healthy teeth roots: Deep teeth cleaning helps keep the roots of teeth healthier. The healthier the roots the longer you will have them in your old age and the less likely you are to lose them. So next time that you are at the dentist ask them if you need deep cleaning or not.
  • Gets rid of tartar and plaque: Sticky plaque stays on teeth even after regular cleaning and brushing. This is a normal thing. If plaque is left on the teeth for too long, it can turn into tartar. These two not only change the color of your teeth but also can cause tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. So having that deep teeth cleaning is beneficial to your oral health.

Cons of deep teeth cleaning

Okay, so we have talked about the good, how about the bad? Yes, there are some disadvantages to the deep cleaning process. We provide you with all the necessary details so you will be able to make an informed decision. Also, keep in mind that these cons are rare so there is no need to be alarmed.

  • Pain and teeth sensitivity: The deep teeth cleaning process can be a bit painful and cause teeth sensitivity. But remember each person feels different amounts of pain due to tolerance. That is why your dental hygienist will numb you up. Before they deep clean your teeth, they will apply a topical gel or administrate local anesthetics.
  • Takes time: Deep cleaning usually requires multiple appointments since getting the whole mouth and gums cleaned take a long time. Also, it can be really uncomfortable too. So, the dentist usually splits the deep cleaning process into two appointments. They will do half your mouth in one and the other a few days after. This helps with the healing afterward as well.
  • Can be expensive: Dentists usually recommend getting teeth deep cleaning twice a year. And this brings us to what we already know going to the dentist can be expensive. Dental treatments are no exception either. So getting deep cleaning can cause a hefty dent in our pocket as well. It is a good idea to check with your insurance company to see if they cover any of the expenses.
  • Gum recession: During the procedure, the dentist pushes the gums back to clean out the gum pockets. After deep teeth cleaning the gums tend to grow back and that shows the gum tissue is healthy. But in some people, it might not happen and cause even more gum recession.
  • Can cause nerve damage: In rare cases, deep cleaning procedures could cause nerve damage. This is more likely to happen in people with underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases.

Your dentist might recommend taking over-the-counter pain medication to ease the pain after the process. But in most cases, it won’t be needed.

Just to wrap up the cons, this is not to stop you from going for a deep cleaning procedure but to help you better manage your expectations and what a deep cleaning is.

How do I know if I need a deep dental cleaning?

We gave you the good and the bad. Now, what is the ugly? The ugly is the signs that show you need deep dental cleaning! So what are they? When we say “what is a deep cleaning teeth”, it may have two meanings. It’s either for your teeth or your gums. Let’s go deep.

You may need a deep cleaning for your teeth

You might be in need of teeth deep cleaning if your teeth move or feel loose or in severe cases if you have tooth loss. These are all indicators to look out for. Sometimes it might not even be this obvious so your dentist would order an X-ray to check for bone loss. The X-ray can also show the amount of tartar and plaque buildup under the gumline.

If you are thinking about coffee, tea, or wine stains on your teeth and how to get rid of them, a deep teeth cleaning could be the answer. But the most important factor to get deep teeth cleaning is plaque buildup. So if your problem is just coffee stains, tea stains or wine stains on your teeth talk with your dentist about alternative treatments.

Does a deep cleaning whiten teeth?

You may ask, “does a deep cleaning whiten my teeth” Yes, it does! Isn’t that great? Due to the accumulation of plaque, the teeth can look more yellow. But after your deep teeth cleaning you can call them pearly whites again!

You may need a deep cleaning for your gums

You most probably need a deep dental cleaning when there are signs of gum disease. Red and swollen gums are not healthy. Other symptoms of gum disease include loose teeth and bleeding while brushing or eating hard food.

Your gum health plays an important role in your overall health. So if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above you are a suitable candidate for gum therapy which is another name for deep dental cleaning.

Another way that your dentist can confirm you are in need of gum therapy is by measuring your gum pockets. If your gum pockets are 4 millimeters deep or more you will benefit from getting deep teeth cleaning. On the other hand, if you don’t have any of the signs and your gum pockets are less than 4 millimeters deep you are not a good candidate for this procedure. Your dentist might recommend regular cleaning which means cleaning plaque and tartar from your teeth and not your gum line.

Now we know going to the dentist and getting your teeth fixed is not the most fun you can have, but oral health benefits outweigh that minor discomfort during your visit. So we are here to take care of you!

What happens if you need a deep cleaning but don’t get it?

You’d better listen to your dentist when they say you need deep cleaning. There are always colonies of bacteria in our mouth and combined with food particles can lead to plaque and tartar buildup on our teeth and in our periodontal pockets. Problems could start with bad breath, swollen and red gums, and sensitive teeth, but it doesn’t end there. If you don’t get deep teeth cleaning all these buildups can lead to advanced gum disease and eventually tooth loss.

Who is a good candidate for deep cleaning

So, what makes you a good candidate for the deep teeth cleaning process? It is not just the plaque buildup that is an indicator. If your gums have deep pockets you qualify for the procedure as well. If your periodontal pockets are more than 4 to 5 millimeters deep, you need scaling and root planing to continue keeping your gums healthy. So, you may need a deep cleaning if you meet these criteria:

  • Showing signs of gum diseases
  • Having tartar and plaque buildup
  • Having deep gum pockets

At what age can you start getting a deep cleaning treatment?

Children usually do not require deep cleaning especially when they have primary teeth. They would, however, have regular cleanings done ideally, if they go to the dentist every 6 months. But when the permanent teeth start to come in and are completely grown by the age of 13, if there are signs of gum disease present, the dentist would do a deep cleaning treatment. So as early as 13 years old, you could go for a deep cleaning treatment.

Can you get deep cleaning with braces?

Brace yourself because the answer is yes! Braces create additional space for food particles and bacteria to hang on to. And they limit your access to your teeth as well. So, it would be a good idea to go for deep teeth cleaning treatment when you have braces.

What happens if you don’t have it ever in the long term

Not only deep teeth cleaning is a treatment for different types of periodontal disease but it is also a measure of prevention for it. So, if you go too long without a deep cleaning treatment, you would develop periodontal disease. Untreated periodontal gum disease could end up causing a lot of problems such as tooth loss and bone loss. Save yourself the trouble of gum surgery or any other aggressive treatment and go to your dental appointments for your deep teeth cleaning.

Contact us and book your consultation!

At Dentfix, we are trying to bring you the most up-to-date dental health knowledge and our patient the best care possible!


-Westfelt, E et al. “Improved periodontal conditions following therapy.” Journal of clinical periodontology vol. 12,4 (1985): 283-93. doi:10.1111/j.1600-051x.1985.tb02294.x

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