Routine Cleanings Vs. Deep Cleanings: What You Need to Know

dental deep cleaning

When you think about deep cleaning, do you think about going to the dentist? Probably not. “Deep cleaning” doesn’t necessarily sound like a dental procedure. However, a deep cleaning is more than just a “thorough cleaning” of your mouth or an intensified routine cleaning. Learn about the differences between a routine cleaning and a deep cleaning and when you might benefit from a deep cleaning.

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

Routine cleaning is a cleaning that takes places once every six months. During this appointment, the dental hygienist will clean the surface of the teeth. The teeth are polished and flossed, and routine x-rays may be taken. The focus of care during a routine cleaning is above the gum line.

On the other hand, a deep cleaning is a specific dental procedure that focuses on care below the gum line; a deep cleaning is commonly referred to as scaling and root planing. A scaling and root planing procedure is done with the intention of treating gum disease. During this procedure, tartar, bacteria, and other debris are removed from below the gum line by scaling and root planing.

Scaling is the process of removing plaque and tartar. Plaque and tartar are removed from all of the surfaces of the tooth as well as from the gum pockets. Scaling can be performed manually with a scaling tool or with an ultrasonic tool. While scaling removes plaque from the tooth surface and gum pockets, root planing is the process of removing plaque from the tooth roots.

Another key difference between a routine cleaning and a deep cleaning is the need for a local anesthetic. A local anesthetic is not needed for a routine cleaning, but a deep cleaning may require numbing to the area since the delicate root will be cleaned.


Usually, there is little care after a routine dental visit – provided the patients maintain a healthy oral hygiene routine. However, there is special care that should be taken after a dental scaling and root planing.

  • Follow up appointment: Your dentist will likely have you come back to ensure the gums are healing properly and that the gum pockets are no longer too deep.
  • Keeping the mouth clean: While cleanliness is important at all times, it is especially important to keep bacteria at bay after a deep cleaning.You may be prescribed with a special antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed after routine cleaning, but they may be prescribed after a deep cleaning.

Signs you might need a deep cleaning

During a dental visit, your dentist will be able to discuss if and when you need a deep cleaning. The following signs are indications that you might benefit from a deep cleaning:

  • Deep gum pockets: A special probe can measure the gum pockets. Typically, a gum pocket that measures deeper than 4 – 5 mm indicates the presence of periodontal disease. Healthy gums do not have pockets greater than 3 mm deep.
  • Bone loss: Detectable through an X-ray, the presence of bone loss may indicate disease. Diseases such as periodontitis could also benefit from deep cleaning.
  • Inflamed gums: If your gums are chronically inflamed, you may need a deep cleaning.

If you have questions about a scaling and root planing procedure, contact us today.

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