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What is a deep cleaning?

A regular cleaning (prophylaxis) involves scaling and polishing procedures that remove plaque, tartar (calculus), and stains from the exposed areas of teeth. The scaling process scrapes away bacterial plaque and tartar from the tooth. In a regular cleaning, scaling is performed on the part of the tooth that is exposed above the gum line.

A deep cleaning is a periodontic procedure used to treat early-stage periodontal (gum) disease. The dentist, periodontist (gum specialist), or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method that combines scaling and root planing. Scaling is performed above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth where germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to gum disease.

Although deep cleaning is effective at removing plaque buildup, it does not eliminate all the bacteria that causes gum disease. When necessary, treatment may also include placing medication such as Arestin in gum pockets and/or taking Periostat, an oral antibiotic medication.

Post-Treatment Care Instructions

A deep cleaning usually requires two appointments with one side of your mouth treated at each appointment. A local anesthetic may be used to numb the portion of your mouth that is being worked on.

  • What you may feel after a deep cleaning:
    • You may experience some discomfort, soreness of gums, and/or sensitivity to cold.
    • Tenderness may last for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • After Treatment:
    • Please be careful not to drink hot liquids or chew on the side that has been treated. Your tongue and lips may still be numb and you may accidentally injure yourself without realizing it.
    • If needed for discomfort, you can take over-the-counter Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol before the numbness wears off, usually 1 to 2 hours after the procedure.
    • Some bleeding may occur; if uncontrolled, place a wet tea bag on the site for 20 minutes.
    • Rinse with warm salt water (1 tablespoon salt / 8 ounce of water) a few times per day for a few days.

Follow-Up Visits After Treatment

Continued maintenance is very important for your gum and bone health and to prevent your periodontal disease from worsening. Please continue brushing at least twice per day and flossing daily. You may have some discomfort so be gentle. And remember, the most successful treatment to periodontal disease is from early detection, diligent home care, and routine professional cleanings.

  • A follow-up visit is usually scheduled 3 to 4 months after a deep cleaning treatment to measure gums for improvement, perform a regular teeth cleaning, and determine a future routine maintenance schedule.
  • Maintenance schedule (regular teeth cleanings) is usually 3 to 6 months apart depending on your healing results.

 

2003. All Rights Reserved. Last Reviewed August 2005

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