Dental Deep Cleaning vs Regular Cleaning — What’s The Difference?

dental deep cleaning vs regular cleaning

What is the importance of dental cleaning?

When you visit your NYC dentist for cleaning, you may not realize that you are also being checked for signs of disease. The condition you probably most commonly associate with teeth is “cavities,” but gum disease is a major health problem for millions of Americans. Periodontitis is the result when too much bacteria builds up under the gum line and starts to eat away at your teeth. If it’s not properly treated, the health of your mouth can be severely compromised.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is the result of bacteria that collects on the teeth and below the gums in the form of plaque and tartar. There are several symptoms and stages of gum disease, each one progressively worse than the previous. If left untreated, the bacteria can start to dissolve your teeth and your gums. The longer it is not cleaned, the more serious it becomes. It can even dissolve the roots that hold the teeth in place. At this point, your teeth could start to fall out completely. 

The two categories of gum disease are as follows: 

Gingivitis

Gingivitis can come on rather quickly. In some cases it may take only a few days for your gums to get infected and start bleeding.  At this stage, the bacteria has released toxins into the gum tissue that causes inflammation and the breaking down of cells. Luckily, since it is so early in the disease process, it can be reversed with good brushing and flossing. 

Periodontitis

Once you are suffering from gingivitis, things can progress quickly to periodontitis. This stage is when the tissue and bone that support your teeth start to become permanently damaged. Pockets of bacteria below your gum line form, and it becomes too difficult to clean out food and plaque buildup from those pockets. Proper brushing habits can pause the progression of the damage, but to improve it will most likely require the intervention of a dentist.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

There are several signs that you can watch out for to determine if your case of gum disease has progressed to the advanced periodontitis stage. For instance, your gums may be sore when you brush or eat certain food. You may be extra sensitive to food temperatures as well. Your teeth may even seem that they have gotten longer, but this is only because your gums are breaking down and receding from the original gum line.

Another sign is that you may feel that your teeth are no longer properly fitting together when you bite down. This is because your teeth have shifted, and will continue to do so without treatment. When the disease gets to its worst stages, you may have puss coming out of your gums and feel like you have constant bad breath and a strange taste in your mouth. 

Preventing periodontitis involves simply cleaning your teeth properly and visiting your dentist for cleanings on a regular basis

What are the types of teeth cleaning?

There are two types of dental cleaning: 

  1. Regular cleaning

  2. Deep cleaning

Which one you receive will depend on the overall health of your teeth. Here’s a quick guide to each of them.

What is a regular teeth cleaning?

A regular cleaning is what you would usually get when you visit your dentist twice a year. It’s intended to maintain the general cleanliness of your teeth. Your hygienist will go through a strict process to make sure that your mouth is squeaky clean to help fight off gum disease and prevent cavities. A regular cleaning will suffice when the bacteria in your mouth has not gotten too deep into your gum line.

dental deep cleaning vs regular cleaning at kate brayman dds

Dental plaque removal

The main goal of a regular dental cleaning is to get rid of plaque and calculus that builds up around and slightly under the gum line.

What is dental plaque?

Plaque is a bacteria-containing biofilm, and calculus is more commonly known as tartar. These are the substances that contain the bacteria that will dissolve your healthy bone and tissue and cause you the most issues. Tartar can largely be cleared away with good dental habits, but plaque is a hardened substance that needs special attention to remove.

No matter how good your brushing and flossing routine is, you will still accumulate plaque and tartar in your mouth over time, so a regular 6 month cleaning is very important. 

How does teeth scaling help your teeth?

During a regular cleaning, the main technique used to remove plaque and tartar is dental scaling. This involves using a tool to scrape away plaque, which will help the gums heal and fight off disease. The reason that scaling is needed is that plaque is sticky and will adhere to the teeth and gums.

Normal brushing will not be enough to remove it properly. There are two different types of tools that can be used to perform a dental scaling procedure. In most cases, the hygienist will use a hand-held scaler. They use it to feel for the plaque on your teeth and scrape it away. It means that the hygienist must be as meticulous as possible to ensure that all of the plaque is removed.

They may also use ultrasonic tools. An ultrasonic scaler has a vibrating tip that is placed against the surface of the tooth. The vibrations loosen the plaque and chip it away from the tooth. Water is then used to rinse the debris away. While this process can be uncomfortable, it usually doesn’t hurt much. No matter what, patients are usually given a topical anesthesia to make the process as comfortable as possible.

After scaling away the plaque, the hygienist will then brush your teeth. It will not be like the brushing you do at home, however. They will be as careful and deliberate in this process as they were with scaling. Once brushing is complete, they will floss between your teeth to make sure that there is absolutely nothing left behind. Once finished, in most cases they will also treat your teeth with flouride to help prevent cavities.

After all of this work, you may have some soreness in your mouth and around your gums, and find that you bleed a bit in the days after, when brushing your teeth. This is completely normal. For a regular cleaning, you should only need one visit, and then you will not need to return until your regular bi-annual visit.

What exactly is deep teeth cleaning?

If the pocket of bacteria is more than 45mm, then you are most likely in need of a dental deep cleaning. If a regular cleaning is an industrial-strength version of your home dental routine, then deep cleaning is industrial strength on steroids. It is necessary when the bacteria has gotten so pervasive that it cannot be removed using simple and easy procedures. 

Deep cleaning is also known as scaling and root planing. Just like with a regular cleaning, a deep cleaning involves scaling away plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces and at the gum line. However, the scaling must go deeper below the gumline to get at the buildups that have accumulated there. 

What is root planing?

The main difference between a regular cleaning and deep cleaning is root planing. This process involves going beyond the buildup on the teeth and scraping it away from the actual roots of the teeth. As gum disease develops, the gums will start to detach from the tooth, which diminishes support and also allows space for more bacteria to accumulate.

Root planing is using a special tool to reach deep into the pockets along the bone and scrape away the plaque and tartar that have collected. The technician will be very meticulous during this procedure to make sure that the pocket is cleaned out as thoroughly as possible. If not, then the plaque and bacteria will only continue to build up after the cleaning is finished. 

Does deep cleaning (root planing/scaling) for gingivitis hurt?

Post Deep Dental Cleaning

Once you are finished getting cleaned, your dentist will examine your mouth to check for signs of any other issues. These can include alignment, damage, symptoms of grinding, or even another gum disease. 

They may also offer you a medication or a rinse to prevent infection and to help with any discomfort. In some cases, they may inject medicine directly into the bacteria pocket to provide a boost to infection prevention. 

A deep cleaning will most likely leave your mouth sore and sensitive for a few days, and you may find you are bleeding when you brush and floss. This can also happen with regular cleaning. 

What are the dental deep cleaning alternatives?

Of course you should want to do your best to avoid needing a dental deep cleaning. Good habits at home will help prevent gum disease from getting so far gone that you need root scaling, and will also help you experience as little discomfort as possible from regular cleanings. Make sure that you are brushing well twice a day. Take the time to properly clean each tooth at the gum line. You should also floss every day to remove food particles from between your teeth and at the gum. 

Eating the right foods and avoiding certain drinks can also have a big impact on the health of your teeth and preventing gum disease. Sugary foods such as candy are well-known for causing damage to teeth. However, there may be some foods that surprise you. Bread, for instance, is a common culprit. It is made with a lot of starch, and the saliva in your mouth will transform that starch into sugar. This sugary bread material will then stick to your teeth, which leads to plaque and bacteria. If you do enjoy bread, eat less processed bread and stick to whole wheat and whole grain.

You probably know that eating too many potato chips is unhealthy and bad for your waistline, but did you know that they are also bad for your teeth? When you think of chips you probably think of them being salty, but, like bread, they are filled with starch. It will break down to sugar just like bread, leaving your teeth exposed to bacteria. Those are just a few examples of foods that can be bad for your teeth. 

You’ll also want your mouth to be hydrated to help naturally rinse your teeth. Beverages containing alcohol will dry out your mouth. This means that you won’t have an adequate amount of saliva to do the job. Make sure to drink a lot of water and try not to drink alcohol to excess. 

As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into high-quality dental care than simply preventing and filling cavities. Gum disease can cause serious problems for your teeth and the overall health of your mouth. Make sure that you keep up good dental habits at all times, and visit your dentist twice a year to maintain good oral health. 

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