Why Do Some People Need Deep Cleaning?

By Premier Dental of Ohio


We hear this question all the time.  Many people see the dentist for the first time in a long while and hear that they need a deep cleaning.  This treatment plan typically brings up a lot of questions (most of them have answers in our previous Deep Cleaning FAQs blog here).

Why is it Called a Deep Cleaning?

The official dental term for a deep cleaning is a periodontal scaling and root planning.  This is the term you may see on your checkout paperwork or on any dental insurance forms.  We call it a deep cleaning because the procedure involves the removal of bacterial deposits from underneath the gums.

A deep cleaning is not the same thing as a routine teeth cleaning.  A deep cleaning is a dental procedure aimed at treating gum disease, while a routine teeth cleaning is a procedure to prevent it.

This difference is obvious when you see the categories of the two procedure codes for your dental insurance.  A deep cleaning is under the category for treatment of periodontal disease.  A routine teeth cleaning is under the category of preventive dentistry.

How is a Deep Cleaning Different from a Routine Teeth Cleaning?

There are several differences between the two procedures.  These procedures are not interchangeable.

  • A deep cleaning removes bacterial buildup from diseased gum tissue. A routine cleaning removes bacterial buildup from healthy gum tissue.
  • A deep cleaning usually involves two separate dental appointments and treats only one side of the mouth at a time. A routine cleaning takes only one visit.
  • A deep cleaning usually involves the use of local anesthetic to keep you comfortable while the dental hygienist or dentist cleans underneath the gums. Your mouth will be numb to prevent the process from causing you any pain.  A routine cleaning does not require any numbing.
  • A deep cleaning can involve the use of some additional materials or tools. The most common additions to a deep cleaning are 1) the implantation of a small antibiotic chip under the gums and 2) the use of a dental laser to sterilize the gums and promote healing.

If I Need a Deep Cleaning, Can I Just have a Routine Teeth Cleaning Instead?


If your dentist diagnoses the need for a deep cleaning, a routine teeth cleaning will not leave you with clean teeth.  The end goal of all types of teeth cleaning, both deep and routine, is to have a mouth with zero bacterial deposits.

If you need a deep cleaning and a routine teeth cleaning is performed instead, the dentist or dental hygienist has no choice but to leave bacteria on your teeth.  This is unacceptable and will not happen at Premier Dental of Ohio.

Remember that all people are unique with different areas of risk and different needs.  We do not treat every patient the same with a cookie cutter approach to dentistry.  Patients receive an individual diagnosis based on their specific needs and problems.  This leads to custom treatment plans.

Teeth Cleanings are like Haircuts

Think of teeth cleanings like haircuts.  Very rarely do multiple people go in and request the same haircuts.  A haircut is very different for someone who gets his or her hair cut on a regular basis than for someone who has not seen a hairdresser in several years!  Imagine a homeless person with no access to a haircut.  His hair becomes long, uneven and matted, and he may have lice.  It will take a bit more work to get this man back to a clean, healthy appearance.  Yes, you could just shave his head, but in this analogy, that would be like pulling all of the teeth.  In a dental situation, it is better to keep the teeth and work hard to make them healthy and beautiful.

The routine teeth cleaning is for patients who stay on a consistent schedule, who have no gum disease and do not need additional care.  The deep cleaning is for patients who have not seen a dentist in a long time and have years of buildup to clean away.

I’ve Had my Deep Cleaning.  Now What?

After the dentist and dental hygienist perform the deep cleaning, you have a “clean slate”.  This is a new beginning for your teeth and gums.

Your dentist and dental hygienist have done their job to create this clean slate.  Your job is now to keep it clean.

Keeping the slate clean involves changing your home habits and your dental visit frequency.

Home Habits:

Keep your teeth clean at home by following this schedule for oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush after breakfast and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth every night before bed. Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the proper flossing technique for your specific needs.
  • Use a mouthrinse each time you brush. Some patients receive a prescription mouthwash to use after a deep cleaning.  You must use this prescription mouthwash after brushing and flossing.  Also, do not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes after swishing.  The goal is for it to stay on the teeth and gums for at least 30 minutes.

Dental Visit Frequency:

After a deep cleaning, most patients need to have follow-up cleanings every three months.  This frequency varies, though.  Through great home care, some patients only need to come every six months.

Your dentist and your hygienist will determine the interval of time that best meets your specific needs to keep your gums healthy!

Do You Need a Deep Cleaning?

If you know you need a deep cleaning, or if it has been several years since your last dental visit, call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location to schedule an appointment with our wonderful dentists and dental hygienists.  They will evaluate your teeth and gums, describe your specific needs, and schedule you for the treatment necessary to give you a “clean slate”.

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