Dental cleaning versus deep cleaning: Advantages and disadvantages

Update in January 11, 2024

Dental cleaning versus deep cleaning

There is more than one type of dental procedure that may be casually referred to as a cleaning. For example, there is a regular cleaning & then there is what is referred to a deep cleaning. It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between these procedures & implications that each of these procedures have when it comes to your oral health.

Knowing that there are different types of cleanings and understanding when each is needed has many benefits. Based on your dental health and habits, you will have the right expectations when you go to the dentist, avoid financial surprises and most importantly, this knowledge helps you understand that your personal oral hygiene coupled with regular routine cleanings are the most powerful weapons against gum disease.

Dental cleaning

Dental cleaning

A dental prophylaxis is a cleaning procedure performed to thoroughly clean the teeth and improve gum inflammation. As such, prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for halting the progression of periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Periodontal disease and gingivitis occur when bacteria from plaque colonize on the gingival (gum) tissue – either above or below the gum line. These bacteria colonies can cause inflammation and irritation in your gums which lead to gingivitis or even worse periodontitis. Continued bacterial presence begins to systematically destroy gum and bone tissue. This overtime has a “domino effect” causing gum recession, bone loss around teeth, and can even cause tooth mobility. If left untreated this bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause complications with cardiac, respiratory, and endocrine systems.

Reasons for prophylaxis/teeth cleaning

Prophylaxis is an excellent procedure to help keep the oral cavity in good health and also halt the progression of gum disease.

Here are some of the benefits of prophylaxis:

  • Tartar removal – Tartar (calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can cause serious periodontal problems if left untreated. Even using the best brushing and flossing homecare techniques, it can be impossible to remove debris, bacteria and deposits from gum pockets. experienced hygienists use special dental equipment and instruments to treat problems such as tartar and plaque buildup.
  • Aesthetics – If you are a tea, coffee, or wine lover most likely your smile contains stains that are discolored or make you feel less confident about your smile. A prophylaxis can rid the teeth of those unsightly stains and return your smile to its former glory.
  • Fresher breath – Periodontal disease is often signified by persistent bad breath (halitosis).  Bad breath is generally caused by a combination of chronic bacteria deposits below the gum line, unremoved food debris on the tongue, or periodontal disease. The removal of plaque, calculus and bacteria noticeably improves breath and alleviates irritation.
  • Identification of health issues – Many health problems first present themselves to the dentist.  Since prophylaxis involves a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity, the dentist is able to screen for oral cancer, evaluate the risk of periodontitis and often spot signs of medical problems like diabetes and kidney problems. Recommendations can also be provided for altering the home care regimen.

What does prophylaxis treatment involve?

What does prophylaxis treatment involve

Prophylaxis is usually performed in the course of a regular dental visit. Prophylaxis is generally performed in several stages:

  • Supragingival cleaning – The hygienist will thoroughly clean the area above the gum line with scaling tools to rid them of plaque and calculus.
  • Subgingival cleaning – This is the most important step for patients with periodontal disease because the hygienist is able to remove calculus from the gum pockets and beneath the gum line.
  • Root planing – This is the smoothing of the tooth root by the hygienist to eliminate any remaining bacteria. These bacteria are extremely dangerous to periodontitis sufferers, so eliminating them is one of the top priorities of the dentist.

Prophylaxis is recommended twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be performed every 3-4 months on periodontitis sufferers. Though gum disease cannot be completely reversed, prophylaxis is one of the tools the dentist can use to effectively halt its destructive progress.

Deep dental cleanings

Deep dental cleanings

Like the name implies, deep dental cleanings provide your teeth with a deep cleaning, using special techniques to get rid of plaque, tartar and bacteria below the gum line and all the way down to your tooth roots. The bacteria that cause gum disease love to hide in hard tartar deposits on the surfaces of your teeth that are protected by your gums. As the bacteria multiply and grow, they release toxins that irritate your gums.

Over time, your gums start to pull away from the surfaces of your teeth, creating tiny pockets that allow the bacteria to migrate all the way down to the roots. Infections around the lower part of your tooth can wind up weakening the roots, eventually causing your teeth to fall out. In fact, gum disease is the main cause of tooth loss among adults.

Deep dental cleaning removes bacteria below the gum line and around the roots to prevent gum disease from advancing and causing tooth loss. Plus, your dentist will smooth (or plane) the surfaces of your tooth roots to make it harder for bacteria to “stick” to it in the future. Sometimes, an antibiotic gel is applied to the teeth during the cleaning to kill hard-to-reach germs; other times, oral antibiotics or a special antibiotic mouth rinse might be prescribed. Because it goes below your gum line, deep dental cleaning uses local anesthetics to numb your gums or, if your gums are very sensitive or you’re anxious, sedation might be used to keep you calm and comfortable.

What are the advantages of deep cleaning teeth?

What are the advantages of deep cleaning teeth

You might need a deep cleaning if gum disease causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, creating a space greater than 5 millimeters (mm) deep.

If gum disease worsens, the space between your gums and teeth can continue to widen. This can weaken the bones that support your teeth, causing loose teeth or tooth loss.

If your dentist recommends a deep cleaning, benefits of this procedure include:

  • stopping the advancement of gum disease.
  • treating a current infection and promote healing
  • cleaning your teeth above and below the gumline
  • eliminating bad breathcaused by gum disease
  • protecting the roots of your teeth

Is There Pain After Deep Cleaning Teeth?

Like any dental procedure, you may experience some pain, swelling, and soreness afterwards, and you may be numb from the local anesthetic for the rest of the day following your appointment.

You may lean towards a soft food diet for several days after having your teeth deep cleaned since your gums will be tender. You may also want to avoid cold food or drinks due to heightened sensitivity. In order to prevent infections and to help your gums heal, your dentist may prescribe antibiotic pills or a mouth rinse.

Always follow the after-care instructions provided by your dentist and be sure to call if you experience unusual amounts of pain or have any issues related to your deep teeth cleaning or teeth and gums.

You will have a follow-up appointment after the deep teeth cleaning process has been completed in order to check on your healing progress; your dentist may also advise that you get standard teeth cleanings every 3 months instead of the normal 6 months after your initial deep teeth cleaning.

What are the disadvantages of deep cleaning teeth?

Although deep cleaning can treat gum disease, the procedure has its risks. Disadvantages of deep cleaning teeth include:

  • can cause nerve damage
  • doesn’t guarantee the reattachment of your gums to your teeth
  • may cause your gums to recede
  • possible infection if you have a compromised immune system
  • pain and sensitivity

Pain and sensitivity are the most common side effects. Risks from deep cleaning are usually minimal and only last about 5 to 7 days, though for extensive cases, this may extend to a few weeks.

How much does deep teeth cleaning cost?

The cost of deep cleaning varies depending on the severity of gum disease or inflammation. You’ll likely have two visits, although some people might need up to four visits to completely remove tartar and plaque. You can pay depending on where you live or how much treatment you need.

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