What is the difference between an ordinary cleaning and deep cleaning?
There is some confusion about the difference between scaling and root planing. Scaling is basically the process of removing dental tartar from the surfaces of the teeth (see dental cleanings). Root planing is the process of smoothening the root surfaces and removing any infected tooth structure. If you have gum disease or gum pocketing, the gum pockets around the teeth will have deepened, thereby allowing tartar deposits to form under the gumline.
The two processes tend to blur together since during the cleaning process, the dental worker scales away tartar and performs any necessary root planing at the same time. Any roughness can be planed away to result in a silky smooth surface.
How long does it take? Typically with deeper pockets and extensive rough root surfaces, the deep scaling and root planing procedure might be broken down into quadrants of work per appointment. For example, the upper right side of the mouth might be worked on one day, and the three other parts worked on at separate appointments. Or alternatively, one half of the mouth (right or left, upper or lower) might be cleaned per appointment. This also allows for only a part of the mouth being frozen at a time and makes for more manageable, shorter appointments. The dentist may use antibiotic gels within the periodontal pocket, again to remove any nasty bugs, or may rinse out the pocket with various medications such as chlorhexidine.
What can I expect afterwards?
- Discomfort can vary after root planing, but one can expect it to be more sore afterwards since it’s usually in a deeper region under the gums.
- The teeth themselves can become a bit more sensitive to temperature, and bleeding might occur for a little while.
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen work very well to alleviate discomfort, but stronger painkillers can be given should you need them.
- Brushing and flossing can be delayed or done more gently to avoid aggravating any bruised or tender gum areas.
- Your dentist or hygienist may recommend salt water or chlorhexidine rinses.