What is a Periodontal Cleaning?

By Premier Dental of Ohio

periodontal cleaning

A periodontal cleaning is not a “normal” or “regular” teeth cleaning. The clinical term for a “regular” teeth cleaning is a prophylaxis.  This means the teeth are cleaned in order to prevent disease from developing. If periodontal disease is already present, we cannot perform a teeth cleaning that claims to prevent it.  We must perform a teeth cleaning to treat it.

A periodontal cleaning is a dental procedure used to treat periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease is a Foundation Problem

Let’s consider periodontal disease with an analogy to your home’s foundation.  The jawbone and gums, which hold your teeth in place, are the foundation of your teeth.  If you have periodontal disease, you have a foundation problem.

As the foundation underneath a home begins to break down, you may notice some minor issues like cracks around a doorway or a door that sticks.  If the foundation problems go untreated and get worse, your floors start to tilt and bricks fall off.  When the foundation is severely unstable, the entire house can fall down.

Periodontal disease may start with mild symptoms like bad breath and tender gums.  As it progresses without treatment, the symptoms worsen into loose teeth and periodontal abscesses (infections).  In the worst-case scenario, all of your teeth fall out.

If you have foundation problems in your home, it does not do any good to paint over the cracks in your wall.  They will simply return.

This is what it would be like to do a “regular” cleaning on a patient with periodontal disease.  A “regular” cleaning does not fix the problem.  It merely makes things look a little better for a short period of time.  The disease is not stopped and will continue getting worse.

A periodontal cleaning treats the foundation problem.

The Process of a Periodontal Cleaning


Before the dentist or dental hygienist performs a periodontal cleaning, he or she must diagnose periodontal disease.  This diagnosis consists of through an oral evaluation, measurements of the gum and bone attachments to the teeth, and a series of dental x-rays.

The dentist diagnoses periodontal disease when there is a loss of the necessary attachment to the teeth.  The buildup of bacteria underneath the gums causes this loss of attachment.


The purpose of a periodontal cleaning treatment is to remove all of the bacterial accumulation underneath the gums.  A periodontal cleaning gives each tooth a “clean slate”, allowing the body to heal the areas of inflammation and disease caused by the bacteria.

Periodontal cleanings can be uncomfortable, so you will be offered the option to have local anesthetic. You should opt for anesthetic if you do not want to feel the process of cleaning under the gums.

Only dentists and licensed dental hygienists are trained to perform periodontal cleanings.

The practitioner uses specific tools designed to reach under the gums and clean the bacterial accumulation off the tooth surface.  These tools include traditional hand scalers, curettes, and ultrasonic scalers.  Ultrasonic scalers use ultrasonic vibrations and water to break up buildup and flush it out.

Two-Step Treatment

In most cases, a full mouth periodontal cleaning requires two separate dental visits.  This may be dictated by your dental insurance plan, which will only pay for two quadrants (or one-half) of the mouth at a time.  Cleaning one-half of the mouth at a time offers two advantages:

  1. If you require anesthetic for the procedure, you will not experience full mouth numbness.
  2. Between your first and second visits, you will be able to feel the difference in your mouth between the “clean” side and the “dirty” side. It is important to know what “clean” feels like!

Antibiotic Therapy

Our periodontal disease also includes the use of antibiotics to help reduce bacteria so that your body can heal more effectively.  As part of the periodontal cleaning procedure, we place a small antibiotic called Arestin directly into areas of deep pocketing in the gums.

At the end of your procedure, we will prescribe an antibiotic mouthrinse with detailed instructions for its use.  This step helps to keep the bacterial levels down to a more manageable level while your gums are healing.

Home Care

Once the periodontal cleaning is complete, the dentist’s job is done.  The ball is then in the patient’s court.  It now becomes your responsibility to keep the teeth clean.

Bacteria builds up on our teeth every single day.  Unless you want the money, time, and energy invested in your periodontal cleaning to go to waste, you will commit to taking great care of your teeth.  This includes brushing twice daily, flossing nightly, and using any recommended or prescribed mouthrinses.

The periodontal cleaning presented you with a clean slate.  Keep it clean (and prevent further periodontal disease) by committing to a good oral hygiene routine every single day.


Keeping the slate clean also involves professional teeth cleanings with your dental hygienist on a consistent basis.  Most patients who have experienced periodontal disease need to have their teeth professionally cleaned every three months.

These consistent cleanings are termed “periodontal maintenance cleanings”.  They serve to maintain clean tooth surfaces under the gums and prevent bacterial buildup; therefore, they prevent the return of periodontal disease.

Do You Need a Periodontal Cleaning?

If you are concerned about periodontal disease or already know you need a periodontal cleaning, please call to schedule an evaluation today. Our talented dentists and dental hygienists will go over your treatment needs in detail and get you started on the path to a solid foundation.

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