What is a "deep cleaning" and why do some patients need it?
Plaque is always forming on your teeth, but if they aren’t cleaned well, the bacteria in plaque can cause your gums to become inflamed. When this happens, your gums will pull away from your teeth and form spaces called pockets. Plaque then gets trapped in these pockets and cannot be removed with regular brushing.
If left untreated, gum disease could lead to bone and tooth loss. If gum disease is caught early and hasn’t damaged the structures below the gum line, a regular cleaning should do, however, if the pockets between your gums and teeth are too deep, a “deep cleaning,” or scaling and root planing, may be needed.
A deep cleaning has two parts. Scaling is when your dentist removes all the plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) above and below the gum line, making sure to clean all the way down to the bottom of the pocket. Your dentist will then begin root planing (smoothing out your teeth's roots) to help your gums reattach to your teeth. Scaling and root planing requires a local anesthetic (novocaine) and is typically done in multiple visits. After these are completed, the patient is typically put on a schedule of more frequent, regular cleanings to maintain periodontal health.