Deep Teeth Cleaning
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Health >
Deep Teeth Cleaning
My dentist has recommended that I have a ''deep cleaning''
rather than a regular cleaning. Has anyone had this? Is it
worthwhile? Unfortunately I hadn't had a cleaning for over 5
years and so I do have a lot of plaque build-up (but no
cavities!). But I've never heard of a deep cleaning. It
requires local anesthetic and has to be done in two separate
visits (1/2 the mouth per visit, one hour each time). While
insurance covers 100% of a regular cleaning it only covers
80% of the deep cleaning, for a total cost of $300. Also, I
have two young kids and it will be difficult to go in for
two longer appointments. I'm contemplating just asking for
the regular cleaning now, seeing if it does an adequate job
on the plaque, and holding off on the deep cleaning. Any
advice based on experience greatly appreciated! Thanks.
I asked the BPN community this same question a few months ago. My dentist
recommending deep cleaning and I'd never heard of it. I got mixed replies,
said it's worth it, others said it's just a way to generate fees. My
that the dentistry profession devises new procedures because fewer and
people and children have cavities due to flouridated water, they then
the insurance companies these procedures are necessary, and the insurance
companies make a code for it, and there you go. Despite this, I went
ahead with it, it took about an hour for one side and
another hour for the other. Here's my recommendation to you. If you
haven't had your teeth cleaned in 5
years then you should do it. If you get your teeth cleaned regularly
so clear it's needed. Jane
It really depends if you have gum disease or not.
I do have gum disease. The dentist / hygentist measure the pockets
teeth and the gums and measure 4s and 5s. We work on getting the 5s
back to 4s and bath to 3s.
If your gums are improving, no need for the deep clean. If you have gum
disease and are too busy to spend a lot of time cleaning &
working on your teeth, then maybe the deep clean is for you.
Note that gum disease is totally different from cavities. Leads to bone
between teeth, but not necessarily cavities there. working on better
My dentist has recommended I undergo ''deep cleaning'', I've
never heard of it and want to know if it's a customary
procedure. It involves numbing a quadrant of the mouth and
doing some deep under-the-teeth cleaning. Each quadrant
takes an hour, so to do the whole mouth takes 4 hours (not
necessarily all at once), with each quadrant numbed. This
sounds excessive. Has anyone out there undergone this
procedure and is it worth it? It has an insurance code and
is partly covered by my dental plan. I don't have great
teeth but haven't had a cavity in years, and I think I have
normal gum recession. Thanks!
Usually you need a deep cleaning for your gums, and it's a pretty routine
procedure. I've had several, and my results (including follow-up care like using
floss/gelcam/toothpicking) usually last 5-10 years, so this doesn't have to be a
regular thing. For the long-term health of your gums/teeth, I think it's worth it,
and my insurance usually covers about 2/3rds of the cost. I think it's painful--I
have to be very numbed, otherwise I'd be jumping out of the chair. Be sure to
take some tylenol before hand--it will help with the swelling.
Don't want dentures!
Back in the early 90s, I had a dentist who recommended this.
This same dentist (in SF on Sutter St.) sent a huge bouquet
of flowers to each new patient of his. I had never had as
much as a cavity since I was 12 and visited his office when
I was about 27. He strongly recommended a ''deep cleaning.'' I
thought it was bunk and went and got a second opinion from
my current dentist, who's been taking care of my teeth since
approximately 1993. He thought it was completely unnecessary
and to date has never recommended any such thing. I should
add that I've had one filling and no other dental work since
then, but I do take impeccable care of my teeth at home. I
don't know if this story is of any help to you, but I think
you are right to be skeptical.
I've had this type of cleaning a few times at my
periodontist's office (deep cleaning way below the gum line
under anaesthesia). It's for periodontal disease, not
cavities, to try to decrease bacterial growth and get the
disease under control. I've had two quadrants at a time. I
believe it's also referred to as 'scaling' or 'planing'.
Some insurance will only cover it once every 2 years. If you
have bad gum disease it seems appropriate, but it sounds
like you don't think you do. Good luck.
Darn. I wrote a long-ish post, but failed on the submit
part. Anyhoo, if your gum measurements are 2 or 3, my take
is that you're fine and probably do not need any deep
cleaning. If you hear 4 and 5, your gum recession may be
''normal,'' but it's not healthy. My only concern would be
whether the dentist is proposing this work (and $$) for
her/himself. Mine has referred me to a podiatrist in
another practice the two times (over 10 or so years) that
I've needed this. I get a (copay) consultation before
committing to anything. I would personally be leery of my
dentist proposing to do 4 hours of pricey work on my gums.
NOTE FROM MODERATOR: I think the poster means
periodontist, not podiatrist!
It is not as bad as filling a cavity but is sort of
unpleasant. However, going to the periodontist is much worse from what
I have heard. If it's being recommended for you, you do need it and
should go ahead. Don't do more than one quadrant per visit.
Get Over with It
my understanding is that a deep subgingival cleaning is done
when someone has lost gum tissue where the gum attaches to
the root of the tooth and the gap between the gum and tooth
is deeper than it should be. bacteria gets down there and
forms calculus (tarter) and requires a lot of digging to
remove. doing it without numbing would be too painful since
it's pretty aggressive. you shouldn't need this unless your
gums are detaching from your roots (per my understanding).
but if you do have calculus down there, you definitely want
to get it removed, as the bacteria will continue to
deteriorate your gum tissue.
I had to have it done, and I never have cavities either. It has to do
with your gum health, not your teeth. It's no picnic, but you should
definitely do if it is recommended. I don't think the dentist would
recommend this procedure if you didn't have periodontitis, an
pervasive infection under your gums. They will go in and clean deep
underneath the gums, which is why you need the numbing. Each section
will be swollen and painful afterward while the gums heal, but it will
be worth it to have healthier gums. Leaving the infection untreated
isn't good for your overall health. For example, it has been found
that women with periodontitis during pregnancy have more problems --
preterm labor, if I remember correctly -- than women without it,
apparently due to the stress of constantly fighting a low-level
infection. Your mouth will feel better and so will you. Also, you
will find you no longer get the bad morning breath you probably get
now. Do it!
I would get a second opinion. A few years ago I picked the
cheapest dental insurance I could get and went to the most
sketchy dentist office I have ever been to because it was
the only one that took that insurance (in SF). They told me
I needed a ''deep cleaning'' and it sounded serious, so even
though I think I questioned it, I went through with it. It
was just like a normal cleaning, and I think they said it
would involve scraping the roots under my gumline, but I
don't think they even did that. I was up nights stressed and
freaked out, and the whole thing was traumatic, and in the
end I don't think it was necessary at all. No dentist before
or since the sketchy one has ever even mentioned ''deep
cleaning,'' so I would definitely question it.
grateful to have good Dental insurance
I've had this done twice in the last 8 or so years, (one of the answers here:
http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/health/deepteethclean.html was from me). I
was much more nervous about it than is warranted--I too had never heard of it,
nor knew anyone who had it done, but once I started talking to people about it, I
realized it is not that uncommon, and it's a procedure that consistently gives
good results. Note: sometimes it is also called ''root planing''
still happy teeth
I suggest you get a second opinion. I really hate it that
dentists sometimes use procedures like this just to make
money, but some do. So a second opinion can really save you
time, money, and worry.
I've had this done because I have gum disease. I have
deep pockets in the back teeth so my dentist recommended
it. I have no idea if it helped, but I wanted to reassure
you that it's a normal recommendation for gum disease (I
don't get cavities either; it's not about that).
Mom with good oral hygiene, but bad gums
Don't worry, ''deep cleanings'' are
actually quite common. Usually deep cleanings are
recommended for patients who have active periodontal
disease. Often times, you may see signs of gum disease if
you have gums that are red, inflammed, or bleeding upon
brushing/flossing. Deep cleanings are meant to remove as
much as possible the bacteria that are deeper in your gum
pockets that the ''regular cleanings'' aren't adequate for.
That is why it is necessary to numb you up and do a more
thorough cleaning quadrant by quadrant. Occasionally,
some dentists are willing to do two quadrants at a time.
Once you have been diagnosed with gum disease, you must be
extra diligent with your home care- brushing, flossing,
etc. to maintain healthy gums. Otherwise, deep cleanings
may need to be repeated every couple of years or so if the
disease continues to have detrimental effects.
Also, the bacteria that causes gum disease does not have
any correlation with the bacteria that causes cavities.
Although gum disease can often be related to hygiene and
home care, it sometimes can occur to people who do
everything right, but just was born with the genes of gum
disease. Left untreated, the bacteria from gum disease
can spread to the heart, and can affect pregnancy. Hope
My old dentist recommended the same thing. He said my teeth
and gums were in terrible shape and he wanted to get in
there and apply antibiotics to attack the biofilm. Trouble
is, I'm a microbiologist and what he was saying didn't make
sense. You can't kill all of the bacterial cells with a
single treatment of antibiotics (especially bacteria in
biofilm!), and even if you could clean them away for a
moment, other bacteria elsewhere in the mouth would migrate
to the newly cleaned spots below the gumline. I did a lot
of research in the scientific literature and couldn't find
any rationale or justification for this procedure. So, when
I saw the dentist the next time, I asked him to explain how
it worked and I raised my concerns. He became unbelievably
defensive and said, ''I have a dental degree. You don't know
what you're talking about.'' Just for the record -- it was
University Dental on San Pablo. Out of curiosity, is that
where you go?
Anyway, I got myself out of there. I've been going to a
different dentist for the last five years. None of the dire
consequences (root canals, etc.) that the dentist at
University Dental predicted have come to pass. In fact, I
haven't had a single cavity, my teeth are in great shape,
and the dentist I see now has actually recommended that I
have X-rays less frequently because he sees no problems on
My advice -- don't do it. And consider the possibility that
your dentist is incompetent or a fraud.
Has anyone had a deep cleaning done at the dentist?
My understanding is you go in for two separate
appointments that last 2 hrs each where they really dig deep
and clean around the gum base. My dentist is
recommending it but to be honest, I'm not looking forward to
going through this at all. My questions are: has anyone
done this and were the results positive enough to make it
worthwhile? Has anyone instead pursued another option
and been successful in reducing the amount of plaque build
up around the gum line? How painful was this or was it no
big deal? I'm wondering if going in for 3 month cleanings
for a year is an alternative. Any suggestions or experiences
would be welcome.
Wimpy dental patient
I had deep cleaning done early this year. It was two
appointments about 45min each. The dentist numbed the area,
cleaning one side of the mouth each time. It wasn't a pleasant
process but very effective.
Don't hesitate! Despite good intentions, I never end up going
for cleanings often enough and I'm poor at regularly flossing, so
I consider this procedure a life-saver, as I'm prone to heavy
plaque build-up and gingivitus. I've had a deep-cleaning
procedure done twice in the last few years, the first time by an
oral surgeon and just recently by my new dentist. Both times it
was not very uncomfortable or painful at all -- really not a big
deal -- and the results in dental/gum health are well worth it!
Do yourself a big favor ! and just do it.
One who knows
I asked about this about a year ago, and thanks to the advice I
got from people on this list, I went ahead and did it. My
pockets went from mostly 6's and 5's to mostly 2's and 3's, and
my dentist was very happy with the results (and so was I!). I
was very nervous about doing it, but it's really not a big deal--
they will use the local anesthetic and it is uncomfortable to
have half your mouth numb for a few hours after the cleaning,
but that's the only drawback. I am now doing cleaning every 3
months to maintain things. I don't think that just doing more
frequent cleanings will accomplish the same thing--they need to
really get in deep to remove the plaque and make a nice surface
for the gums to heal back onto.
signed: happy teeth
I just had a deep cleaning on three quadrants. If you are told
you need it, it's because they need to get beneath the gums
where you cannot reach with dental floss or toothbrush and
where your regular hygienist usually doesn't go when you
get your teeth cleaned biannually. It didn't hurt for me. In fact,
I felt like my gums were getting massaged, and I liked that
feeling. If your gums/teeth are more sensitive than mine, you
can get anesthetic applied. It may take a little longer and
cost a little more (may not be covered by insurance.) I would
definitely recommend doing it to guard against further decay
and gum disease. If you don't do it, you take the risk of
bacteria continuing to build, possible inflammation and
tenderness, and then your body's immune system reacting
to the presence of bacteria. I have also had periodontal
surgery, and you don't want to go there! My periodontist is
Dr. Gauss at Rockridge Dental. She is very! smart and very
I'm a wimp like yourself and was pretty anxious when given the
same recommendation (partly my fault, though, for not
sufficiently flossing). I was numbed up, and after getting over
the shots, didn't feel anything but the pressure from the
cleaning. My gums/mouth definitely felt better/cleaner, and
outside of the quick pricks from the shots, completely
painless. It might have helped that my dentist's office offers
headsets that allow patients to watch movies while having work
done. Honestly, I truly dread my annual visit, and these
additional trips weren't that bad. If anything, it made me
better at flossing! Good luck!
My dentist is recommending a periodontal scaling and root
planing. I had never heard of this, but their explanation
convinced me that it is a good idea (some of my tooth pocket
measurements were 6 mm). Can anyone give me insight into this
procedure? Is it painful? Did your pocket depth improve? Did
you have to do it more than once? Does it matter who does the
don't want my teeth to fall out before I'm 40 (which is next year)
I had to have scaling and root planing about 8 years ago. Since
I had been a student and had not gone to the dentist on a
regularly scheduled basis, my dentist recommended that I have
this process done. I had deep pockets of 5 and one or two 6's
in the back and regular flossing and brushing were not going to
make it better. It is much more instrusive than a regular
My dentist, Dr. Sean Sullivan in Concord (925-689-7300,
suggested that we do it on two appointments because he had to
use a local anesthetic and didn't want my entire mouth to be
numb. The procedure itself takes about 1.5 hours each time to do
and is not painful (maybe because I have never been afraid of
going to the dentist and have a high tolerance for pain.
However, you will be sore for 2-3 days following this procedure.
Since that time, I have gone to the dentist 2-3 times per year
and have not had any more problems. According to my dentist,
the key is to have this procedure done once and then floss and
brush to maintain everything clean.
Luckily, my insurance covered the whole procedure that can run
upwards of $1200. I'm glad that I had it done because I didn't
want to get premature gum disease.
Clean teeth and gums
I had a scaling and root planing done about 15 years ago (I/m
50 now). I don't remember it being any more painful than having
a filling done. Well, maybe two fillings. My pockets went from
8-9 mm for the worst ones to 5-6 mm. The improvement was very
clear. I also ceased having problems with bleeding gums. I
haven't had it done again, but I have remained on alternating
cleaning visits to the periodontist and my regular dentist ever
since, and I have acquired a fine collection of little dental
cleaning devices (floss, proxabrushes, etc.) for getting at
those gum/tooth boundaries. I don't know if there are different
skill levels - I suspect so. My periodontist was (is) Dr. Pia
Lodberg near Alta Bates in Berkeley.
been there, done that
I think that root planing and scaling are pretty much
synonymous. The procedure involves numbing a quadrant of your
mouth and really getting in between the gum and tooth to scrape
the hardened calculus off the tooth surface. Hygienists will
usually do two quadrants during one visit. As far as I was
concerned, getting the pocket reading was far worse than the
actual scaling. Since your mouth is numbed up you do not feel
anything, although I did feel the pressure that was being placed
on my teeth. The aftermath was a sore jaw and tender gums,
ibuprofin or some such pain reliever can help with that. Ask
your hygienist for what they recommend.
My pocket depths have improved and my gums look pink and healthy
now. After the root planing you will probably need to go in
every three months for a cleaning. Flossing is key for gum
health. I had no idea and my grandfather (probably rolling over
in his grave) was a dentist. I was always under the impression
that it was cavities that led to tooth decay and subsequent
tooth loss. The poor maligned gums, I underestimated their
Your dentist or hygienist should be able to tell you more about
the state of your gums. I was heading for periodontal gum
disease with the condition that my gums were in. Do the root
planing as soon as possible, go to your cleanings, and floss,
I was a former dental hygienist for 20 years, and I have
performed the procedure of periodontal scaling and root planing
hundreds of times. I have also had this procedure done in my
mouth more than once. If you have 6mm pockets, I would
definitely recommend it. I would recommend it with 5mm and
sometimes with 4mm pockets. You have some form of periodontitis
which is an inflammation of the supportive structure (gums and
bone) of the teeth. It is generally caused from specific
bacteria in plaque. The results of treatment vary. With a 6mm
pocket you may only get shrinkage to 4 or 5mm. Ideal sulcus
depths in a healthy mouth are 1mm to 3mm. It is possible you may
have to have the procedure repeated again in 2, 3, 4 years or so.
I am sure your dentist has told you how important your homecare
is, and that you should be flossing daily, etc. The root planing
will fail over time if you are not doing your part. Generally a
local anesthetic (injection) is used so you shouldn't feel the
actual scaling and root planing. Your mouth may be a little
tender for a day or two. Usually a dental hygienist or a
periodontist will perform the procedure. Hope this was helpful.
I had scaling and root planing done over almost 2 years ago, for
the same reasons your dentist gave you. I feel the results were
very effective - my pockets have greatly diminished, and I
haven't had or needed any repeat treatments. I do get my teeth
cleaned 4 times a year as part of regular dental maintenance.
I've always have strong healthy teeth, but the condition this
treatment addresses is for gum problems. I strongly recommend
scaling worked for me!
I would definately get a second opinion. I have found many
dentists to be like used car salesmen when it comes to
procedures that are not really necessary. I had scaling once
and I feel like a complete sucker for falling for it -- it was
expensive and painful. Other dentists over the years have
recommended other procedures that I did not agree to and my
teeth are just fine. My current dentist (Dr. Kim in El Cerrito)
does not measure ''pockets,'' gives brushing and flossing advice,
cleans my teeth and sends me on my way.
Check the web site from the american dental hygienist association
www.adha.org and search for scaling and root planing you will
learn all you need to know. I am a dental hygenist can assure
you that if you have 6mm pockets you need root planning. ITs
this page was last updated: Sep 9, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network