There are different types of cleanings and each is prescribed to address different oral conditions. When a patient visits a dentist for a cleaning, first the hygienist measures the distance between each tooth and the gum tissue that surrounds it.
Patients may be familiar with the occurrence of their hygienist calling out numbers while looking in their mouth. This is to determine the depths of the space or ‘pocket’ between the teeth and gums. If the space between the tooth being measured and the gums is 5 millimeters or more, a deep cleaning (scaling and root planning) may be recommended. These pockets are caused by disease. Dental statistics tell us that between 60 and 80% of the American adult population over the age of 30 have some level of gum disease. So, in reality most American adults do not have disease-free mouths, and therefore, a ‘normal’ cleaning is inadequate to address the disease. The real cause of this disease is bacterial plaque. Like calculus, bacterial plaque is present above and below the gumline. However, the most virulent plaque is found below the gumline.
For a cleaning to have therapeutic value, it is necessary to remove plaque and calculus that exists below the gum line. With disease present, a ‘normal’ cleaning will neither remove nor prevent spreading of the disease. In this case, scaling and root planing, is required in order to arrest the disease. A deep cleaning (scaling and root planning) may also be recommended if a patient has gone without a professional cleaning for a long time or shows signs of a moderate form of gum disease. If a dentist recommends a deep cleaning, it is essential that the cleaning be carried out as quickly as possible to prevent further spreading of the disease. Periodontal Disease is an incurable disease. It is important to your overall health to prevent this disease with professional cleanings at least once every 6 months, along with proper home care including proper brushing and consistently flossing each day.