Since the dental professional generally numbs the gums while working, deep cleaning usually does not hurt. However, after the procedure, you’re likely to experience some gum soreness, which can be controlled with over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen. A small amount of bleeding is also possible. Follow your dental professional’s instructions, which may include using a cleansing rinse. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to be extra-gentle for a few days when brushing and flossing to allow the gums, which will be tender, to heal.
How many deep-cleaning sessions you’ll need depends on your dental professional and the extent of the gum disease. If the condition is in the earliest stage, called gingivitis, then one or two appointments may be all that’s necessary. In more severe cases, it’s common to spread the work over more appointments. One quadrant of the mouth per session is a typical schedule.
Many dental insurance plans cover scaling and planing, but policies vary, so it’s important to inquire in advance.
Deep Cleaning Cleans Tartar and Bacteria
Good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist go a long way, but in some cases standard cleaning procedures aren’t enough. If you have the beginnings of gum disease, your dentist may recommend deep cleaning as a way to clear tartar and bacteria from beneath the gum line. In this way you can disrupt the cycle of infection and inflammation and help to stop the condition from progressing. You’ll not only be doing your gums and teeth a favor – gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss – but possibly preserving your overall health as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that gum disease, also known as periodontitis, may be a factor in heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Deep cleaning, also called scaling and planing, addresses the problem of “periodontal pockets,” which are spaces that form when the gums pull away from the teeth. Bacteria colonize these areas, out of reach of your toothbrush or even dental floss. Signs that you might have this problem include swollen gums, bleeding, pus and bone loss. But often there are no symptoms, and there is almost never pain until the disease is advanced. To perform the deep cleaning, a dentist, periodontist or assistant uses a hand instrument or ultrasonic tool to “scale” the teeth below the gum line. This scraping action gets rid of tartar, which is a hard, irritating substance formed by bacteria and the naturally occurring minerals of your mouth. Because the process can make the surfaces rough, the dental professional then planes the teeth. The result is a smooth surface that is less likely to harbor bacteria or irritate the gum tissue.
For Early Stages of Gum Disease
Deep cleaning can yield quick improvement for gum disease. The method cannot fix existing damage to the gums and supporting bone, but it can prevent further deterioration. It’s most effective in early cases, when you may have no periodontitis symptoms or just small amounts of bleeding. If your gum disease has already advanced to a more serious stage or if deep cleaning does not resolve your problems, you may need further treatments, such as gum surgery. Talk to your dental professional about whether you might benefit from deep cleaning.