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What is a Dental Deep Cleaning?

If it has been several years since your last dental cleaning and you haven't kept up with your brushing and flossing habits, it is likely that your dentist may recommend a "deep cleaning" during your next dental visit. This may come as a surprise to you, but you should know that deep cleanings are more common than you think so you're not alone.

Some patients are under the impression that a "Deep Cleaning" is just a name for a more difficult and expensive cleaning. Although this may partially be true, there is more to what a deep cleaning entails.

What is a Dental Deep Cleaning?

A Deep Cleaning, also commonly known as Scaling and Root Planning (SRP for short), gum therapy or non-surgical periodontal therapy in the dental world, is a type of cleaning that is performed on patients who suffer from a form of gum disease called periodontitis.

A deep cleaning involves the removal of calculus (tartar), plaque biofilm and other toxins that are located below the gum line. This involves cleaning the coronal aspect of the tooth like on a regular cleaning, but also in between the gums and the tooth's roots down to the deepest point of the sulcus or "pocket".

Deep cleanings are typically done in about two to four different appointments for a full-mouth treatment. This is because the cleaning is done in quads (short for quadrant) or a fourth of the mouth at a time. They normally involve the use of local anesthesia to numb up that quad of the mouth to make the experience more pleasant. After the deep cleaning, your dentist or dental hygienist may also use other agents like Chlorhexidine gluconate, Betadine (Providone-iodine) or laser periodontal therapy to further reduce bacterial levels and promote healing.

What is the purpose of a deep cleaning?

The main purpose of a deep cleaning is to help treat gum disease by slowing or stopping the destruction of the periodontal tissues (like bone). After finishing all the necessary quads of the deep cleaning your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend coming in more often for a type of cleaning know as periodontal maintenance, typically done every 3-4 months. It's important to follow their recommendation as this is an essential part to help you continue treating gum disease.

How do I know if I need a deep cleaning?

To see if you need a deep cleaning, your dentist first needs to determine if you have active periodontitis. This is determined by evaluating a few different criteria, such as periodontal pocket depth readings, radiographic boneloss and calculus (tartar) build-up, inflammation of the gums and bleeding on probing. Once all this criteria has been taken into consideration, your dentist will then determine the need for a deep cleaning. If you hear your dentist or hygienist call out numbers of 5, 6 or higher(deeper), then it's extremely likely they will recommend a deep cleaning.

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