Types of dental cleaning

Regular dental cleanings are essential for maintaining good oral health. Professional cleanings remove the plaque and tartar that daily brushing and flossing at home often can’t reach, especially below the gumline and between teeth. This prevents cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and protects your overall health. But did you know there are different types of dental cleanings beyond just a routine cleaning?

The type of cleaning you need depends on your specific oral health status and risk factors. For example, someone with early gum disease may need a deep cleaning to scrape off hardened tartar below the gums, while someone with no oral health issues would only require a regular cleaning to remove surface plaque. Patients at high risk for cavities may get an antimicrobial cleaning, while pediatric cleanings focus more on education than scraping.

Understanding the various types of professional dental cleaning can help you better care for your oral health.

Types of dental cleaning

Routine Dental Cleaning

A routine dental cleaning, sometimes called a prophylaxis cleaning, is the standard cleaning most people get every 6 months. It is quick and gets your teeth superficially clean. The steps involve:

  • Exam of your teeth and gums to check for problems
  • Plaque and tartar removal above and just below the gumline
  • Polishing the teeth to remove stains
  • Flossing to dislodge anything between teeth
  • Fluoride treatment to strengthen enamel

This type of shallow cleaning takes 30-60 minutes. It scrapes away the buildup you can see and feel but doesn’t go deep below the gums. Routine cleanings help prevent gingivitis and stop tooth decay from getting worse. But a deeper cleaning is sometimes needed.

Deep Cleaning / Scaling and Root Planing

As plaque and tartar below the gumline isn’t removed through normal brushing, it can buildup into hardened calculus deposits. This can lead to inflammation and pockets around the tooth. A deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing, is done to scrape off this calculus below the gums.

Steps done under local anesthetic include:

  • Using scaling instruments to scrape off calculus under the gumline
  • Planing the roots to smooth them and remove etches caused by calculus
  • Flushing under the gums with antibiotic microspheres
  • Medicated irrigation treatment with chlorhexidine

This type of deep cleaning may take several visits and numbing shots. But it is critical for treating moderate to advanced gum disease by fully removing bacteria causing infection in the pockets. It gives your gums the chance to reattach to the tooth.

When You Might Need a Deep Cleaning

Signs you may be referred for a deep cleaning include:

  • Puffy, reddened or bleeding gums
  • Gums receding from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or taste in the mouth
  • Pockets around teeth deeper than 3mm
  • Tartar buildup below gumline
  • Loose teeth

Laser Teeth Cleaning

As an alternative to metal scalers, some dentists now use dental lasers to perform teeth cleanings and remove calculus. This high-tech option has a few benefits:

  • Comfortable – Lasers have less vibration and many patients report less pain.
  • Improved healing – The laser light stimulates healing and kills bacteria.
  • No anesthesia – Lasers don’t require numbing in most cases.
  • Fast treatment – Laser removal of plaque is very quick.

The laser breaks up tartar and kills bacteria on the tooth and below the gumline. In experienced hands, lasers can be more precise than traditional hand scalers. However, they don’t fully replace the need for metal scalers in some cases.

Anti-Microbial Cleaning 

This specialized cleaning aims to reduce the microbial load in the mouth using antimicrobial agents. It helps fight infections of the gums, tongue, and throat. Three common options are:

  • Chlorhexidine rinse – A prescription antimicrobial mouth rinse used during cleanings to reduce bacteria.
  • Air polishing – Fine powder is sprayed onto the teeth to break up plaque.
  • Ozone therapy – Ozone gas bubbles are applied to gum pockets to disinfect them.

These methods reduce the overall bacteria in the mouth and are sometimes used before periodontal surgery or dental implant placement. The anti-microbial effects continue working between appointments.

Pediatric Dental Cleaning

Child dental cleanings focus more on education than intensive scraping. The steps involve:

  • Removal of plaque buildup with a quick polish
  • Thorough flossing to reach between tight teeth
  • Fluoride varnish applied to protect tooth enamel
  • Reviewing proper brushing and flossing technique
  • Evaluating diet and habits that impact oral health

The cleaning is often followed by a topical fluoride treatment to harden enamel on developing teeth. The priority is limiting the child’s discomfort while also reducing bacterial levels.

The Takeaway

While a routine cleaning scratches the surface, a deep dental cleaning is like washing the grime out of every nook and cranny. It gives your mouth a fresh start and allows gums to reattach firmly around the teeth. Be sure to get any recommended deep cleanings to save your smile in the long run. Keep up daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental visits for optimal oral health.


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