Why Do I Need a Deep Cleaning?

Why Do I Need a Deep Cleaning?

I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Doc, I don’t want a deep cleaning; just give me the regular one.” If you have ever been told that you needed a deep cleaning, you’ve probably said (or at least thought) the same thing.

So what exactly is a deep cleaning? A deep cleaning is technically called a “scaling and root planing,” and it’s a thorough cleaning that is done on patients with periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, simply put, is when a patient loses the supporting bone that holds in his/her teeth. If you lose enough bone, then you lose your tooth—or teeth. The factors that cause periodontal disease are tartar and plaque accumulation, lack of flossing, avoiding your dentist and hygienist, and genetics. But even poor genetics can be overcome if you’re meticulous about your oral health.

Patients with periodontal disease are simply not candidates for prophys, AKA “regular cleanings.” Because patients with periodontal disease have more detached tissue and bone loss, there is more tooth surface to clean. Additionally, these patients have more tartar and plaque than a healthier patient. Therefore, a scaling and root planning is a lot more work for the dental professional. Plus, the dentist or hygienist often has to numb up the affected area to make the patient more comfortable.

Why do I mention the degree of difficulty for the dental professional? Because other than the fear associated with the actual deep cleaning, the other fear is related to cost! Insurance companies have trained patients to think that their biannual cleanings are free. But they rarely mention the fine print—those “free” cleanings (which you’ve actually prepaid for with your premiums) are only for healthy patients. Insurances will still cover a good percentage of a scaling and root planing, but rarely 100%.

So in summary, not everybody is a candidate for a prophy. But before you jump into a scaling and root planing, ask your dentist WHY you are getting this cleaning. Patients should be properly diagnosed for periodontal disease by taking full-mouth x-rays and measuring gingival probing depths. With proper care and diagnosis, a patient with periodontal disease can maintain their dentition for years to come.