When you visited your dentist for your routine cleaning and exam, you were told that you need to have a “deep cleaning.” You may wonder: Isn’t a regular dental cleaning enough? I brush and floss my teeth and go to the dentist when I should; why do my teeth need anything extra?
Those are good questions and our dentist and team at Exceptional Dentistry are happy to answer these (and any other questions that you may have).
What Is a Deep Cleaning?
During a “regular” dental cleaning, a hygienist uses a special tool to remove all plaque (a.k.a. bacteria) and tartar (hardened plaque) from your teeth above the gum line.
With a deep cleaning, the cleaning is performed below the gum line. A deep cleaning is also commonly referred to as “scaling and root planing” or “scaling and root debridement.” We call it “periodontal therapy.” Either way, the roots of the teeth are carefully cleaned and smoothed to disrupt the bacteria which cause gum disease (a.k.a. periodontal disease).
It can be done to one tooth, to one section, or to all of four quads (sections) of teeth. Basically meaning, your whole mouth might not need it, and in that case, only the teeth that do will have the treatment.
Why Do I Need One? I Take Care of My Teeth.
It’s important to first understand what periodontal disease is. In short, it’s an active infection in the gums.
The second important thing to understand is that it can happen to anyone. Of course, it’s more likely to affect people who have poor oral hygiene, but even if you floss and brush your teeth twice a day, you can still develop it.
The truth is, our home care routines may not always be as stellar as we perceive them to be. Sometimes we miss spots when we brush or floss, which allows that bad bacteria time to cause problems. Since plaque and tartar can build up on the teeth, it’s important to see a hygienist regularly. Only a cleaning performed by a hygienist can remove the plaque and tartar that toothbrushes and floss can’t.
Still, even if you have the best home care routine and you’ve been seeing the hygienist regularly, genetics get to play a part. So, yes you may take care of your teeth, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t need periodontal therapy.
A “deep cleaning” should be thought of as initial treatment in an effort to help curb an active infection.
A Deep Cleaning Isn’t an “Extra”
When you visit our office, our hygienist will use a probe (a.k.a round ruler) to examine the pockets between the teeth and the gums. If the pockets are too deep, gum disease is the probable culprit.
Things like bleeding gums, bad breath, and inflamed gums are symptoms (whether together or separate) of the stages of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, when left untreated, results in major bone loss and ultimately tooth loss.
And even though tooth loss comes with its own set of concerns, what’s even more concerning is that emerging research shows a link between periodontal disease and other major health problems, such as:
- Respiratory Infections
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Colorectal Cancer
- Heart Disease
- Prosthetic Joint Complications
- C-Reactive Protein During Pregnancy
A “deep cleaning” isn’t just an “extra” service; rather it’s a great way to non-surgically treat gum disease and it’s imperative for good overall health.
How Often Do I Need to Have a Deep Cleaning?
A deep cleaning, is the initial treatment and can be done one time. But it might need to be done every few years or sooner depending on your progress.
To actively treat or control gum disease, Dr. James D. Powell typically recommends that you visit our office every three months for periodontal maintenance. This is notably sooner than those who come every six months because they do not have periodontal disease. Remember, together we are attempting to keep the harmful bacteria at bay!
If the infection continues to progress, then we may recommend that you have an additional deep cleaning. Be aware that with extremely aggressive periodontitis that is too advanced to be treated with deep cleanings, we may refer you to a specialist.
What Happens After a Deep Cleaning?
Hopefully, it’s evident by now how important it is to immediately begin treatment once you’ve been diagnosed with periodontal disease. The sooner the infection is addressed the less damage it will do.
After you’ve had periodontal therapy (a deep cleaning), it’s crucial that you be seen for maintenance every three months by our hygienist. With time, your gums should become healthier, or at the very least, maintain the current stage of your periodontal disease.
Red, inflamed gums can become pink and firm again. Bleeding when you brush and floss is reduced, or even eliminated. The pockets between the teeth and gums become smaller. However, these improvements are dependent on you doing your part. You must brush your teeth twice a day and floss once daily.
Our dentist may also recommend that you use an antibacterial mouthwash and better home-care tools like a Sonicare toothbrush and Hydro Floss®. Additionally, we offer adjunctive treatment options to aid in reducing bacteria such as laser therapy.