What is the difference between a cleaning and a deep cleaning?

April 5, 2018

Many patients come to LA Dental Town asking for a cleaning or prophylaxis when they really need a deep cleaning or also known as a scaling and root planing procedure.

However, What is a deep cleaning or scaling and root planing procedure, and why is it different from a cleaning or a prophylaxis? It is important to distinguish the two types and why some people need one and not the other.

A prophylactic cleaning is designed to be a periodic cleaning of the surface of the tooth structure so that tartar and buildup from eating is removed. This is a routine procedure that is done on the surface of the tooth to ensure that bacteria on the surface do not lead to other issues underneath the gums.

A scaling and root planing or deep cleaning is removing tenacious built up tartar underneath the gums that are now attached to the bone and underneath the gums. This procedure is extremely arduous and time consuming because this barnacle like build up is the result of a patient that had the following behaviors. Someone that did not floss regularly. A patient that did not visit the dentist for their periodic prophylactic cleaning every 6 months. This could also be someone who had a poor diet, and or smoked regularly. Any combination of the issues mentioned before can lead to the barnacle like buildup underneath the gums. Patients that require this procedure are diagnosed with periodontal disease or what is commonly known as gum disease.

Some of the symptoms associated with this disease are, gum recession due to bone loss. Bad breath due to the bacteria destroying the bone and harboring underneath the gums. Lastly, loose teeth are the last indication of the disease as bone loss has become so severe that teeth are no longer properly supported. This disease is an active infection that has no cure. However, the treatment and long term maintenance to preserve what is left, starts with a non-surgical approach called a scaling and root planing procedure and thereafter, regular maintenance visits every 3-4 months. This active infection can lead to tooth loss because the bacteria is constantly breaking down the bone supporting the teeth. There may be a surgical approach taken if the gums do not appear to re-attach to the bone after the initial treatment.

Unfortunately, this active infection is not curable and cannot be treated with a pill because the build up exists beneath the gums and along the bones. In order to save the teeth, and begin the treatment to preserve what is left, the scaling and root planing procedure or deep cleaning starts with our dentist or hygienist starting with a special scaling instrument to physically remove the build up under the gums. Thereafter, they will finish with a root planing with a special medicinal instrument to blast any remaining build up underneath that may have been missed. Altogether, this scaling and root planing procedure can take up to 30-45 minutes for every 1 to 4 teeth! Very time consuming as a result of the tenacious build up.

The main difference between a cleaning or prophylaxis and a deep cleaning or scaling and root planing is that there are special instruments used to go underneath the gums and bone to remove the tenacious build up, while a prophylactic cleaning removes build up on the surface of the tooth. The deep cleaning is also designed to help save your teeth from a future of bone loss and potential tooth loss. Please contact LA Dental Town, If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of periodontal disease or are overdue for a cleaning.

Margaret Wu DDS. / Jennifer Wu DDS.

What is the difference between a cleaning and a deep cleaning?
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