For most of us, a big smile is all about our teeth, and at Core Dental the vast majority of new patients come in with questions, concerns, or ideas for improvement specifically regarding their teeth.
But there’s more to a smile than just teeth, apart from our lips of course. Often forgotten but actually essential to good oral hygiene are our gums. And this is where deep dental cleaning comes in.
Teeth cleaning versus deep dental cleaning
Teeth cleaning is the process of removing plaque from the teeth in the hope of preventing cavities and maintaining fresh breath. This cleaning takes place at home, in the form of brushing and flossing, and at the dentist, in the form of scaling (generally with your hygienist).
When plaque is left undisturbed by brushing or flossing for 24 hours, it turns to calculus (or tartar), which is harder than bone and therefore cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. Because plaque tends to accumulate mostly along the gum line, it will eventually begin to infect the gum and this condition is known as gingivitis.
Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen, red gums, which may bleed. If left untreated, gingivitis can in the long term progress to gum disease (periodontal disease). A feature of gum disease is the formation of pockets between the tooth and surrounding gums. These pockets cannot be reached by brushing or flossing, so they house bacteria, undisturbed.
Untreated gum disease is associated with bone loss, and in turn, tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the main cause of tooth loss in adults.
In contrast to teeth cleaning, which is focused on the teeth, deep dental cleaning (also known as root planing), has been designed to improve or maintain the health of the gums.
What does deep dental cleaning involve?
Much like teeth cleaning, the first step in deep dental cleaning is to remove tartar from the teeth, because that tends to be the original root cause of gum problems. This process is called scaling.
The second step involves scaling the tooth’s root – in other words, penetrating the pockets mentioned above to remove that bacteria that is ultimately causing inflammation and bone loss. Because these pockets can be quite deep, we refer to the process as “deep dental cleaning”.
This procedure can cause sensitivity; but rest assured, your mouth will be numbed prior to treatment to ensure your comfort. It is not advisable to numb the whole mouth at once (as this interferes with speaking and eating), so generally one quarter of the mouth (or occasionally half the mouth) is done at each session.
When do I need a deep dental cleaning?
If you’ve noticed a build-up of a hard, white substance along your gum line that doesn’t go away with brushing and flossing, or if you’re experiencing swelling, redness, or bleeding of the gums, then deep dental cleaning may be an important part of your oral hygiene plan.
Of course, it’s always best to start with a consultation with your dentist, who can diagnose the cause of any trouble and talk you through the appropriate treatment options from there.