Regular Cleaning vs. Deep Dental Cleaning

a young lady smiling after dental treatment


When you go to the dentist for a regular check-up, you’ll get your teeth cleaned at the same time. While this is more thorough than your at-home brushing, it’s not classed as a “deep clean” which is usually something reserved for patients with gum disease or gingivitis. Let’s find out more about the differences between a regular dental cleaning and a deep dental cleaning so you know what to expect heading into your next appointment.

Regular Dental Cleaning

If you brush twice daily and also use floss every day, your teeth should be in pretty good shape. During a routine appointment, your dentist or a dental hygienist will take things a step further in the regular dental cleaning. A regular cleaning will remove any hardened plaque or tartar from your teeth which is not always possible to remove during a normal at-home brushing session. This can prevent cavities and tooth decay and keeps you on a great oral health track.

What Happens in a Regular Dental Cleaning?

After your general dental exam, your dentist or dental hygienist will carry out the cleaning which usually involves:

  • Removing any tartar, plaque or calculus from the tooth’s surface and the gum line. This is done with a small handheld tool.
  • Flossing.
  • Sometimes a mild abrasive paste will be used to remove surface stains from your teeth.
  • A fluoride treatment may be applied either directly onto your teeth or via a rinse.


The regular dental cleaning takes a few minutes and will leave your teeth feeling and looking smoother and cleaner. If you have no other dental issues, a cleaning will take place every 6 months during your regularly scheduled appointments.

Deep Dental Cleaning

While a regular dental cleaning might feel like a deep clean compared with your normal routine, a deep dental clean is a more involved process, usually for patients who are in various stages of periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. It can be split across two or more appointments, and uses processes called dental scaling and root planing. Together, these processes remove plaque and excess bacteria from below the gumline and also clean out the roots of your teeth. If caught early enough, it’s possible to successfully treat gum disease and sometimes even reverse it.

How is a Dental Deep Cleaning Carried Out?

Dental scaling is a non-surgical procedure also known as periodontal scaling. During your appointment, your dentist may numb your mouth before scraping away the calculus or plaque above and below the gum line with a handheld tool like a curette or periodontal scraper, or sometimes an ultrasonic instrument.

Depending on the severity of the gum disease, half your mouth may be treated at a time. Scaling reaches deep into the periodontal pocket under your gum line where you cannot clean with a normal toothbrush.

After the scaling process, the rough surfaces on your tooths’ roots will be smoothed, or planed, enabling them to better reattach to the gums. This is carried out with the same small tools used for scaling.

What Else Do You Need to Know About a Deep Dental Cleaning?

  • It can be uncomfortableWhile your dentist may use a local anesthetic to numb the area, your gums will probably feel a bit sore and your teeth may be more sensitive for a couple days after a deep clean.
  • Results can varyIf you have advanced periodontal or gum disease, scaling and planing may not help your gums to reattach.
  • Aftercare may be necessaryAn additional appointment to check the results might be needed. There is also a risk of bacteria entering your bloodstream, in which case antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • It has other advantagesHalitosis, or bad breath, can be successfully treated with a dental deep clean as more bacteria is removed than with a regular cleaning.
  • It’s a great treatment for gum diseasePeriodontal scaling and root planing is a tried and true way to combat or control the effects of gum disease.


Now that you know the differences between a regular dental cleaning and a deep dental cleaning, you can head to your next appointment with confidence. Patients in Missoula, MT and surrounding areas can contact Discovery Dental Group for the best in general and cosmetic dentistry.