Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Will I be getting a regular cleaning or deep cleaning? Here I explain the who, what, when, where and why of these common dental procedures.
Everyone, including your dentist, needs a regular cleaning. The general time frame for this is 6 months. This time frame may be shorter depending on the patient’s overall health status.
Plaque calcifies within 24 to 48 hours, so any spot that is not cleaned within a day (and your mouth has many hard to clean spots) will have a buildup of calculus. Judicious oral hygiene and consistent dental visit are the best ways to prevent the need for a deep cleaning.
It’s best to remove calculus regularly so that it doesn't get too deep or large. If it does, inflammatory factors increase within your body and lead to pocket deepening, gum tissue loss, and jaw bone break down.
Pockets, loss and breakdown?
The dental team will examine your x-rays and pocket depths when determining a cleaning protocol. Your tooth’s pocket depth is the depth an instrument can go into the gums (pink tissue) that surround your teeth. Typically, you want this depth to be between 1 to 3 mm.
If the instrument’s descent reaches 5mm or beyond, it likely indicates bone loss. Bone that is beside the tooth. Bone that is stabilizing your tooth in the jaw. Your jawbone is breaking down! Gum tissue may reduce as well, exposing the sensitive roots to the harsh oral environment.
This is not great news and we want to stop it ASAP.
Why are the pockets so deep?
Essentially, when you don’t brush or floss, calculus builds up. The bacteria in the calculus launch an assault on your body. Your immune system rallies up its defences and tries to fight it. Ultimately, this back and forth leads to your bone distancing itself from the infected war-zone.
Note: someone with good oral hygiene but a poorly managed systemic condition such as poorly managed diabetes may develop gum inflammation even though they brush and floss every day. Overall health needs to be maintained and monitored.
When the pockets are greater than 3mm, you would be prescribed a deeeep cleaning. The idea is to remove any food and bacterial particles that are hiding in that pocket (it’s unlikely you’ll be able to clean this area at home) in the hopes that no more bone is lost. In some cases, the contact between the bone and gums can be re-established, reducing the pocket depth.
Did you know?
Deep cleanings are also called scaling and root planning and in some cases a deep cleaning is only needed around a few teeth. The rest of the mouth receives a regular cleaning.
Both cleaning methods are important. Deep cleanings are more technique sensitive, time-consuming and involve going deeper (the pockets are deeper).
In a deep cleaning, the dental team goes down into the gum tissue to where the gum meets the bone. Regular cleanings are generally above the gum line.
Deep cleanings help reduce inflammation and slow down gum disease. Electronic instruments, laser assisted, and precise hand instruments are all utilized to improve oral health.
Maintain your oral health and visit your dentist regularly to mitigate your likelihood of being prescribed a deep cleaning. Should you need a deep cleaning, don’t delay the process. The sooner the area is cleaned, the sooner you will be on the road to recovery.