So, there’s getting your teeth cleaned, and then there’s getting a dental deep cleaning. The technical term for the procedure is “root scaling and planing.” In essence, it’s a very specific type of dental procedure that is used to remove extreme plaque and tartar, especially if the plaque and tartar are below the gumline. And where there is extreme tartar, plaque and debris, then harmful bacteria is seldom far behind. Bacteria can lead to the early stages of gum disease, known as gingivitis, and periodontal disease, which sometimes results in tissue and tooth loss. That’s why dental deep cleaning is generally considered to be the first line of defense against such disease, and can help patients to avoid more serious types of treatment, like root canals or tooth extractions.
Just how deep are we talking?
The dental deep cleaning process is relatively straightforward. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may be able to treat your entire mouth in one visit. Or, your dentist may perform scaling and root planing on one section at a time. Here’s what you can expect when you go in for the procedure:
Before the procedure, your dentist will need to determine whether you have any pocketing (areas in which the gum has pulled away from the teeth). This is one of the ways that gum disease is diagnosed. If you have pockets which are greater than 5 millimeters deep (healthy pockets are no more than 3 millimeters deep) then your dentist may recommend root scaling and planing.
As the procedure can be painful, your dentist may numb the area so that you are more comfortable.
Using manual scaling tools or ultrasonic instruments, your dentist will scrape away the plaque and tartar on the surface of your enamel as well as underneath your gums. This is the ‘scaling’ part of the procedure, although both parts tend to blend together when you’re in the chair.
Then, he or she will remove plaque and tartar from the roots, smoothing out the rough areas on your roots where bacteria forms and collects. In some cases, your dentist may use a laser to perform root planing. This causes less bleeding and swelling, but it does require more specialized training on the part of the dentist.
What happens afterwards?
Your dentist will usually prescribe some form of over-the-counter pain reliever to help you recover after the procedure. It’s relatively normal to experience soreness, sensitivity or a small amount of bleeding. Immediately following the procedure, you should avoid brushing and flossing so as not to aggravate the affected area. Be sure to schedule regular follow-ups with your dentist so that they can monitor your recovery. To make sure that your teeth are as healthy as possible, brush and floss every day, use fluoridated toothpaste, avoid tobacco and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Will I have to go deep into my pocket, or is dental deep cleaning covered by insurance?
Dental deep cleaning is covered by your insurance. While the exact amount of coverage varies from plan to plan, in general, you can expect your dental plan to cover around 50% of the cost. According to CostHelper, root scaling and planing costs around $100-$450. However, it’s important to remember that the costs can run much higher – as much as $500-$4,000 – depending on how serious the problem is and how much work needs to be done.
So that’s the low-down on dental deep cleaning. For a deeper dive, ask your dentist for more information or post your question in this article to participate in our community.