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

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If you’re keeping up with your dental hygiene—and hopefully you are!—then you’re familiar with how routine dental cleanings keep your smile white and your teeth free of destructive plaque and tartar. However, family dentistry clinics can perform far more detailed cleaning than what is necessary for basic oral health. Some patients require deep teeth cleaning that encompasses more than just a simple brush and polish. Dental deep cleanings aren’t a typical service you need often and are usually reserved for patients struggling with gum disease.

Dental Cleanings: What Are the Types?

Dental cleanings are some of the most important services a dentist can offer when it comes to the oral health of most patients. Cleanings are usually performed by licensed den₽tal assistants called hygienists, who use different tools and techniques to clean surfaces of the teeth that are hard to reach with home dental care. Routine dental cleanings usually take around 20 minutes, and they should be performed at least once every six months, while dental deep cleanings are usually prescribed by a dentist as needed.

Routine Dental Cleaning

In a routine cleaning, your hygienist’s goal is to remove the bacteria, plaque, and tartar that has accumulated since your last cleaning. Even with daily home care, it’s difficult to clean every surface of your teeth as thoroughly as needed to prevent this kind of buildup. Your hygienist will typically use a few different processes in a routine cleaning, including scraping the teeth with a dental instrument to remove hardened tartar, polishing with a high-powered dental brush and fine-grit toothpaste, and thorough flossing in between the teeth. By the time they are done, your teeth should be smooth, white, and tartar-free.

Deep Teeth Cleaning

Dental deep cleanings, on the other hand, involve cleaning the teeth in between the gums to the roots below the gum line. In patients with an extreme buildup of tartar, bacteria can migrate underneath the gum line (even as deep as the tooth’s root itself), resulting in bacterial infections of the gums. A process called “scaling” is performed by manually scraping away tartar beneath the gum line, as well as the use of an ultrasonic device to remove plaque from the tooth surface.

Routine Dental Cleaning vs Deep Dental Cleaning

While both procedures aim to eliminate tartar buildup, there are some major differences between the two. The major difference is the frequency and necessity of the two. Routine cleanings are part of your normal biannual checkup and mostly consist of the same process every time. They take a little under half an hour and require no further action on your part or your dentist’s. Routine cleanings are not painful and use commonplace dental equipment to perform.

Dental Deep Cleanings are a prescribed procedure that your dentist will perform to treat advanced gum disease, and the methods and equipment used in a deep cleaning should not be performed and used as frequently as a routine cleaning as they are slightly more invasive.

Deep cleanings often require novocaine or other local anesthetics to numb the gums ahead of the procedure, as accessing the surface of the tooth roots with a manual instrument called a scaler can be uncomfortable otherwise. The repeated rubbing of the tooth root in this process removes bacteria that can be inflaming the gum tissues—making them red, swollen, and puffy—and encourages the gum to reattach to the tooth’s surface.

Also, unlike routine cleanings, deep cleanings are intended to produce certain results and may require multiple follow-up appointments to fully accomplish. Finally, routine cleanings are considered preventive dental care to stop the formation of tartar and decay, while deep cleaning is a reactive treatment to ongoing gum and periodontal disease intended to treat symptoms.

Deep Teeth Cleaning Before and After

If you are a candidate for a dental deep cleaning, you might notice symptoms of gum disease that inform your decision to seek treatment, including:

  • Redness and swelling of the gumline
  • Bleeding during brushing
  • Persistent halitosis (bad breath)
  • Loosening of the teeth from the gums or retraction of the gum line
  • Pus in the gum area

Before the procedure, your dentist will take measurements of the gum socket depth of your teeth with a special tool, a process called a periodontal charting. This may also include the use of X-ray imaging. If your roots are determined to be within the normal range of depth for treatment (between 10 and 3 millimeters), they will proceed with scaling—manually removing the tartar from the teeth. After that, they will polish the teeth with a high-powered brush and fine-grit toothpaste before thoroughly flossing between the teeth.

After your procedure, you should notice markedly less tartar on the visible areas of your teeth, and symptoms of disease and infection should start to recede over the following days and weeks. However, deep cleaning is considered restorative dentistry, and will not prevent the resurgence of gum disease without daily oral hygiene maintenance on your part.

What Type of Dental Cleaning Do You Need?

Your dentist is the only one who can tell you for sure whether or not you require deep teeth cleaning, but if you have trouble removing tartar on your own, have struggled with gum or periodontal disease in the past, or have gone more than 6 months without routine cleaning, you may be a candidate for the procedure.

Gum disease can have serious consequences on your overall oral hygiene, and putting off treatment can be risky. If you are showing symptoms of gum disease, haven’t had a routine cleaning in some time, or have any other questions about dental deep cleaning, Champagne Family Dentistry is here to help. With locations in both Sparks and South Meadows, Champagne Family Dentistry can remove plaque and tartar and keep your smile bright and healthy—no matter where you live in Northern Nevada! Call for an appointment today.

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