We all know that it is important to keep your teeth and mouth clean, but sometimes you need more than a basic cleaning to have optimal oral health. When your gums and teeth have experienced disease and infection, sometimes you need to bring in the reinforcements to get your mouth back in shape. For example, say you accidentally spilled wine on the rug in your home. In addition to your routine vacuuming, you’re going to have to break out the carpet cleaner, or possibly even hire a professional carpet cleaner to come in and give it a deeper cleaning. Without this professional cleaning, the stain will get harder and harder to treat over time until it is eventually a permanent issue that has destroyed the rug altogether. In this scenario, the wine stain is detrimental to the overall quality of the rug and is comparable to how gingivitis and periodontal disease can affect your mouth. In addition to your everyday oral maintenance like brushing and flossing, you are going to need to have a more aggressive treatment to hopefully reverse the damage.
General Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning
If you have historically had a healthy smile, you’ve most likely experienced a general cleaning when going to the dentist. General cleanings are usually recommended every 6 months, but some patients may need to receive them more frequently depending on their oral history and risk factors for gum disease. During a general cleaning, your hygienist will remove any plaque buildup from the surface of your teeth, polish them, rinse (medicated options are often available), and then perform professional flossing.
Contrary to popular belief, a deep cleaning is not just something you need if you haven’t been to the dentist in a long time. It is a more aggressive form of dental cleaning that is primarily used in cases of moderate to severe or chronic gum disease when dental root planing or scaling is needed.
Every year your dentist should do an exam to check “pocket” depth. This “pocketing” is the area between your teeth and gums where bacteria forms, and healthy gum tissue should have a depth of no more than 3 mm. If your pockets are deeper than 5 mm, your dentist will recommend a deep cleaning as opposed to general cleaning.
During this process, a more extensive, deeper version of the scaling done for a general cleaning will take place. Next, plaque will be thoroughly removed from your teeth and pockets through root planing, and typically an ultrasonic device is used to vibrate the plaque off of the surface followed by a curette to remove any remaining plaque. After all the plaque is removed, the area will be irrigated with a medicated rinse and often oral antibiotics will be prescribed to avoid any further bacterial infection. This usually is done in at least 2 separate appointments, and a follow-up visit will be required to ensure that your gums and teeth are improving and reducing pocket depth. Aftercare will be discussed at the appointment including any changes that need to be made to your oral hygiene routine. Often the addition of an antiseptic rise and a change in toothpaste is required, as some types are better at preventing gum disease than others.
Again, it is important to not only maintain proper everyday oral hygiene habits but to also seek professional cleaning from your dentist on a regular basis. Needing a deep cleaning is nothing to be embarrassed about, as it can help prevent the progression of periodontal disease to the point where surgery is needed. That being said, you should always consult with your dentist about how you can improve your oral hygiene routine to better prevent the onset of gingivitis and periodontal disease.