What is deep cleaning for teeth?

Deep cleaning is a dental procedure performed to prevent or treat periodontal disease. A dentist's diagnosis of periodontal disease can be quite disconcerting, but it is controllable with regular dental visits for deep cleaning of the periodontal pockets.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal refers to the area of the gum that surrounds the tooth and holds it in place. According to the American Dental Association, when bacteria get trapped in the periodontal pocket between the tooth and gum, the gum weakens and the bone is left vulnerable to decay. Left untreated, this can result in the loss of teeth.

Deep Cleaning

The initial and primary treatment of periodontal disease is deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing. Scaling entails the scraping of plaque and tartar from the teeth above and below the gum surface. Root planing occurs simultaneous with scaling and involves the smoothing of rough layers of the teeth. Both procedures work in concert to facilitate healing of the periodontal pockets by removing harmful bacteria and shutting down areas where such bacteria can grow. A local anesthetic is typically provided during the deep cleaning, which could require more than one visit depending upon the extent of the disease. An oral antimicrobial rinse may also be prescribed to further neutralise the bacteria and promote healing. If the depths of the pockets reduce or stabilise as a result of the treatment, the disease can be controlled with quarterly or semiannual visits to the dentist. If the treatment is less successful, the dentist may refer the patient to a periodontist for possible surgery with the objective of getting a deeper scaling underneath the gums. Periodontal deep cleaning can be uncomfortable for the 30 minutes to an hour the patient is in the dentist's chair, but it is worth it in the long run to retain a smile.


Periodontal disease is typically diagnosed in adults in their 30s or 40s. A classic symptom is bleeding gums, which can occur during brushing or flossing. Other symptoms include loose or shifting teeth, and redness and swelling of the gums. A patient should schedule a visit with his or her dentist to investigate these symptoms and commence appropriate treatment.


The dentist finds the first hint of periodontal disease upon review of regular dental X-rays, which indicate some degree of bone loss to the teeth. To better understand the stage of the disease, the dentist then probes each tooth to measure the depth of its periodontal pocket. A depth of more than 3 millimetres usually confirms the diagnosis of periodontal disease.

Prevention and Prognosis

According to the ADA and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the keys to avoiding the diagnosis of periodontal disease are daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste along with flossing after each meal, maintenance of a balanced diet and cessation of smoking. Regular dental visits help to support these efforts. Once diagnosed, a patient will always have periodontal disease. However, with deep cleaning treatments at regular intervals, the disease can be controlled and tooth loss prevented.