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Dental Deep Cleaning vs. Regular Cleaning: What's the Difference?

Sep 13, 2023
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Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial for overall health, and routine dental cleanings play a significant role in this endeavor. However, not all dental cleanings are the same. Two common types of dental cleanings are regular cleanings and deep cleaning

Regular Cleaning (Prophylaxis)


A regular dental cleaning, also known as prophylaxis, is typically performed every six months as part of your routine dental checkup. It focuses on removing plaque and tartar buildup from the surfaces of your teeth and along the gumline. Here's what you can expect from a regular cleaning:


Plaque and Tartar Removal: Your Dentist or Dental hygienist use special instruments to scrape away plaque and tartar, which are bacterial deposits that accumulate on your teeth over time. This helps prevent cavities and gum disease.


Polishing: After removing plaque and tartar, your teeth are polished with a prophy paste to remove surface stains and create a smooth surface that makes it harder for new plaque to stick to your teeth.


Fluoride Treatment: In some cases, a fluoride treatment may be applied to strengthen your tooth enamel and reduce the risk of cavities. Fluoride works by remineralizing weaker areas of your teeth that have been worn down by grinding or bacteria.


Oral Health Assessment: During your regular cleaning, your dentist will also examine your teeth and gums for any signs of oral health issues, such as cavities, gum disease, or tooth decay.


When is a Regular Cleaning Recommended?


Regular cleanings are recommended for individuals with good oral health and who do not have significant gum disease or other dental issues. Gum disease comes in two forms:  gingivitis, and periodontal disease. These cleanings help maintain oral hygiene and prevent common dental problems.


Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)


A deep dental cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, is a more extensive procedure designed to address gum disease (periodontal disease) and its associated symptoms. Here's what you can expect from a deep cleaning:


Scaling: During the scaling phase, the dental hygienist removes plaque and tartar not only from the visible tooth surfaces but also from below the gumline. This involves cleaning the roots of the teeth to eliminate bacteria and calculus deposits. Cleaning the roots of teeth can be sensitive so localized numbing can be used to help the deep cleaning be more comfortable.


Root Planing: After scaling, root planing is performed to smooth out the tooth roots. This helps prevent bacteria from adhering to rough surfaces and allows the gums to reattach more firmly to the teeth.


Oral Health Assessment: Just like with regular cleanings, your dentist will assess your oral health, but the focus during a deep cleaning is on addressing gum disease and its progression.


When is a Deep Cleaning Necessary?


A deep cleaning is recommended when gum disease is present. Signs of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, persistent bad breath, and pockets forming between the gums and teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to more severe issues like tooth loss and systemic health problems. A deep cleaning is often the first step in addressing and managing gum disease. After a deep cleaning, you want to see your dentist for a follow-up every 3 months for the first 2 years.




In summary, regular dental cleanings are vital for maintaining good oral health and preventing common dental problems. They are recommended for individuals with healthy gums and teeth. On the other hand, deep cleanings are a more intensive treatment designed to combat gum disease and its associated symptoms. Knowing the difference between these two types of cleanings can help you understand which one is appropriate for your specific dental needs. Always consult with your dentist to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your oral health. Remember, preventive care is key to a beautiful and healthy smile.