What Is Deep Cleaning at Dentist?

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Deep cleaning allows dentists to thoroughly clean your gums and tooth roots if you are suffering from gum disease. Dental deep cleaning, also called scaling and root planning, is the most common and conservative form of treatment for gum disease, according to Simple Steps. The treatment helps improve the health of your gums, preventing tooth and bone loss.


Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, occurs when plaque and tartar build up on the gum line of teeth, deepening the groove between the tooth and gum. Normally, the groove is 3 mm or less in depth, according to the American Dental Association, but when periodontal disease occurs, a deep pocket develops at the gum line. The pocket traps bacteria, which can eventually cause teeth to fall out if the condition is not treated. A deep cleaning removes the plaque and tartar beneath that gum line that causes periodontal disease.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing are two different procedures that are part of a deep cleaning. Dentists use scaling to remove plaque and tartar, while planing is used to smooth out tooth roots, making it less likely for plaque to accumulate on the roots in the future, according to the American Dental Association.

The Procedure

Your dentist may use local anesthetic to numb your gums and mouth before the deep cleaning begins. Dentists use hand instruments called scalers and air-powered or electric ultrasonic instruments to remove plaque. Ultrasonic cleaners work by forcing plaque and tartar off the teeth with vibration. Any debris remaining around the teeth is removed by the cleaners’ water irrigation system. Website Simple Steps explains that ultrasonic instruments are usually used first to remove large deposits of plaque and tartar from the roots and crowns of teeth. After using ultrasonic instruments, your dentist will chip away any remaining tartar and plaque with the scaler.


Teeth and gums may feel sore after the procedure. Both bleeding and tooth sensitivity may occur during the recovery period, according to Dental Fear Central. Your doctor may recommend that you take over-the-counter pain medication to relieve any lingering pain from the procedure. In some cases, dentists prescribe prescription medication to control pain and prevent infection. Antiseptic mouth rinses can be helpful if gums are sore.


The procedure may not be completed in one visit, depending on the extent of periodontal disease. If gum disease is extensive, your dentist may recommend that you work on one-quarter or one-half of the mouth at each visit. The procedure is most likely to take only one visit if you have gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, according to Simple Steps.