What is deep cleaning and why is it needed?
We all know that we could do a better job brushing and flossing, but that is not that easy; with the rush of life, getting kids off to school, commuting, work, maintaining a social life, and constant snacking, it’s hard to remember to spend a full two minutes brushing twice a day and to floss as well. Getting into every corner of the mouth isn’t easy either, nor is flossing at the end of the day. Even the ones most diligent about their oral care still hear the need for addressing cavities, or needing root canal treatments, or periodontal disease have taken hold of the gums. And if periodontal issues are not addressed, that can lead to loss of teeth and even loss of bone in some cases. So we do need to have professional cleaning to access areas that we normally are unable to, improve the longevity of the teeth and gums, and reduce the chances of tooth loss, which ultimately leads to better quality of life.
Typically, a film of food and bacteria, called plaque, forms on our teeth after eating and if not removed properly and thoroughly, with brushing and flossing or waterpicking, can turn into tartar. Tartar or calculus is a hard calcified substance that is impossible for an individual to clean off with a toothbrush. Tartar attracts more tartar buildup, similar to a way that pearls form and grow in water. A dental professional can scrape that off with hand scalers or an ultrasonic vibrating device, called cavitron though. Teeth cleaning in general is focused on removing the plaque and tartar off the teeth surfaces as otherwise they harbor bacteria, leading to inflammation and infection in the gums and bones surrounding the teeth, not to mention cause decay formation in the teeth themselves. Cleaning can be focused on cleaning at/above the gums which would be called a prophy or regular cleaning, or can be more deep, going under the gums to remove the tartar and inflammation which would be called a deep cleaning or scaling & root planing. The most important advantage of having cleanings done is that a trained professional with special tools can access every side of each tooth and the surrounding gums much better than we can at home. They, the dentist or hygienist, can also test and probe the depths of the gum pockets to determine their health, and treat them if they are showing signs of disease whether by doing debridement and deep cleaning it or using antibacterial solutions, laser, or localized antibiotics for instance.
Dental cleaning should not be painful if gums are in good condition. Some individuals have sensitive gums and despite being healthy are concerned about feeling something during the cleaning. It is possible to have a numbing rinse used prior to cleanings to help with that and numb the gums for 20-30 minutes for that without any injections. When it comes to deep cleanings, depending on how much cleaning and scaling is to be done, either localized anesthesia can be utilized or topical numbing gel can be placed into the pockets that need to be cleaned thoroughly. Nitrous Oxide or laughing gas can certainly be used to take the edge off the anxiety for those who want extra help getting relaxed. Listening to music or a podcast with noise canceling headphones is always feasible as well.
How often are cleanings recommended and what are the costs associated?
Typically cleanings are recommended every 6 months for the majority of the patients. There are some who would benefit from cleanings every 3-4 months however due to the amount of buildup of plaque/tartar or the inflammatory response of their gums to the presence of tartar or plaque. And certainly there are patients that require deep cleaning, either once per their lifetime which typically happens if someone has been lacking proper oral care and hygiene for a while, or because of lack of proper hygiene regimen on an ongoing basis.
Dental insurances typically allow 1-2 cleanings per year; there are some details in some dental plans as to how far apart those cleanings should be or whether there is a waiting period for treatment in general or not. And as such, the nuances of the insurance policies need to be looked at pertaining to this topic. As for deep cleaning, most policies allow that every 2-5 years depending on the policy as indicated before. And usually any and all such treatments count towards the yearly maximum allowable for commercial dental insurances.
Regardless of having dental insurance or not, having proper oral care is an essential part of life at this point. If you don’t have dental insurance, ask us about our in-house membership plans that have no waiting periods or yearly maximum or frequency limitations. We strive to help you take care of you!