What is the Difference Between Regular Dental Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial not only for a sparkling smile but also for overall health. Regular dental cleanings, deep cleanings, and periodontal maintenance are essential components of dental care. But what are the differences and when are each used? Each serves distinct purposes in preventing and treating oral health issues. While regular cleanings prevent common oral health issues, deep cleanings address gum disease and periodontal maintenance ensures ongoing care post-treatment.


Regular Cleaning: Routine Maintenance for Healthy Smiles

What is a Regular Cleaning?

A regular dental cleaning, often referred to as prophylaxis, is a preventive procedure performed by a dental hygienist or dentist. This teeth cleaning is what most people think of when they think of going to the dentist for a checkup. It typically involves:

  • Plaque and Tartar Removal: The hygienist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and gum line. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth, while tartar (or calculus) is hardened plaque that cannot be removed by brushing alone.
  • Polishing: After plaque and tartar removal, the teeth are polished to remove surface stains and smooth the tooth surface.
  • Guidance: Dental professionals often guide proper brushing and flossing techniques, as well as recommendations for oral hygiene products.

Who Needs Regular Cleanings?

Regular cleanings are recommended for individuals with generally healthy gums and teeth who do not have signs of gum disease or significant plaque buildup. They are typically scheduled every six months as part of routine dental care to maintain oral health and prevent dental issues from developing.

Benefits of Regular Cleanings:

  • Prevention of Gum Disease: Removing plaque and tartar helps prevent gingivitis and more severe forms of gum disease.
  • Cavity Prevention and Early Detection: Cleaning reduces the risk of cavities by eliminating bacteria that contribute to tooth decay.
  • Fresh Breath: Removing plaque and tartar buildup can improve breath freshness.


Deep Cleaning: Addressing Gum Disease and Beyond

What is a Deep Cleaning?

Unlike regular cleanings, deep cleanings are procedures specifically designed to treat gum disease, or periodontal disease. Also known as scaling and root planing. Deep cleaning involves:

  • Scaling: Removing plaque and tartar from below the gum line, where bacterial deposits cause inflammation and gum disease.
  • Root Planing: Smoothing the root surfaces of the teeth to discourage further plaque and tartar buildup and to help gums reattach to the teeth.

When is Deep Cleaning Necessary?

Deep cleaning is recommended when signs of gum disease are present, such as:

  • Gum Inflammation: Red, swollen, or bleeding gums (gingivitis).
  • Pocket Formation: Deepening of the pockets between gums and teeth, indicating advanced gum disease (periodontitis).

If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and may contribute to systemic health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Deep cleanings are typically performed in quadrants of the mouth over multiple visits, often with the use of local anesthesia to ensure patient comfort.

Benefits of Deep Cleaning:

  • Halting Disease Progression: Deep cleaning stops gum disease from advancing and causing irreversible damage.
  • Promoting Healing: By removing bacterial deposits, deep cleaning allows gums to heal and reattach to teeth.
  • Preserving Oral Health: It helps prevent tooth loss and maintains the integrity of the supporting structures (bone and gums) around teeth.


Periodontal Maintenance: Sustaining Oral Health Post-Treatment

What is Periodontal Maintenance?

Periodontal maintenance follows deep cleaning and is an ongoing therapy aimed at preventing the recurrence of gum disease. It includes:

  • Regular Cleanings: More frequent cleanings (typically every three to four months) to monitor and maintain gum health.
  • Assessment: Monitoring gum condition, checking for any signs of disease recurrence or progression.

Why is Periodontal Maintenance Important?

After undergoing deep cleaning, the risk of gum disease recurrence remains higher. Periodontal maintenance helps manage this risk by:

  • Preventing Re-infection: Regular cleanings help keep bacterial buildup in check, reducing the likelihood of gum disease returning.
  • Monitoring Oral Health: Regular check-ups allow dental professionals to detect and address any issues promptly.

Benefits of Periodontal Maintenance:

  • Preserving Treatment Results: It supports the long-term success of deep cleaning treatments.
  • Preventing Complications: Reduces the risk of complications associated with untreated or recurring gum disease.
  • Optimizing Oral Health: Promotes overall oral health and contributes to systemic well-being.

Understanding the differences between these dental procedures empowers you to make informed decisions about your oral health. By working closely with your dentist or hygienist, you can establish a personalized dental care plan that keeps your smile radiant and healthy for years to come.

Remember, your smile deserves the best care. Call us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment at one of our locations across southern New Jersey. 


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