Every dental office may do things slightly differently. That’s super important to keep in mind every person’s mouth is slightly different. Please remember this is just a generalized overview of a deep-cleaning procedure.
Deep cleaning is also known as SRP (scaling and root planing).
Deep cleaning is needed when your dental x-rays show things like bone loss and tartar below your gums. Your periodontal charting probing depths will often show lots of five-millimeter pockets and up throughout your mouth. Your x-rays and periodontal charting both indicate that you need a deep cleaning.
The first thing is that sometimes that same day initial appointment, they will start the deep cleaning on part of your mouth when you’re still in the chair at your first appointment. However, sometimes they can’t start on the same day. Maybe because they don’t have the proper amount of time needed for deep cleaning. Or maybe they need to send it out to your insurance first. Whatever the case, oftentimes they will re-appoint you to start your deep cleaning on a different day after they take all the assessment information.
More often than not, it will take two appointments to complete a deep cleaning. In the first appointment, they will clean one side of your mouth and in the second appointment, they will clean the other side of your mouth.
What should you expect in the first appointment?
Usually, it might take about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. It just depends on the amount of build-up and the amount of bone loss you have. Once you arrive, they will take your medical history. Oftentimes they will also take your blood pressure. Then they will numb you up so you are super comfortable and you won’t feel anything.
Keep in mind that one full side of your mouth will be numb. So I will recommend eating before you come, just because it’s sometimes difficult to eat afterward if you’re still feeling them. It is okay to eat after a deep cleaning. There are no contraindications regarding your teeth or the procedure. However, I just don’t want you to go home and bite your cheeks or your tongue without realizing it.
Once you’re numb, they start the cleaning.
It really won’t be anything bad or anything to be stressing about on your end. Because once you’re numb, you’re good. Then during the deep cleaning, more things to expect are lots of water. They will use an ultrasonic scaler a lot. It’s a lot of suctioning and a lot of noise. You usually will feel some pressure on your gums but you should never feel anything sharp. If you do, let them know then they can give you more numbing.
Often during the deep cleaning, the clinician may alternate back and forth between the ultrasonic water scaler and the regular hand instruments which gives you a break from the suction. When they are hand scaling, it’s a little less water. Then at the end, they will floss and check around your pockets, sometimes even double-check everything with the explorer as well. Sometimes there will even be a post-op x-ray to confirm they don’t see any tartar below the gum line.
Lastly, in some cases, they will irrigate your gums with an antiseptic rinse.
Or sometimes even they’ll use some type of medication to put inside of your gum pockets. Then you’ll be done with one side of your mouth. They usually won’t polish your teeth at the end, they save that for another appointment. It is recommended to rinse with warm salt water that day, especially if your gums are sore. It’s super soothing for the gums. Just warm up some water and add salt and swish it around your mouth. If you are concerned about discomfort, always talk with your dental provider about individual recommendations. And if you were to have any gum discomfort, it wouldn’t last more than a day.
Now that you’ve finished one side of your mouth. It’s time to come back for the second appointment for the second half.
The second appointment can technically be the next day if your dental office has openings in their schedule. But it’s not necessary to come back that soon. You just usually want to get that second half done within a couple of weeks of the first. This way there’s less of a chance that bacteria from your unclean side will start traveling to your clean side again. A week or two overdue won’t make or break your results. But it might make or break your results if you wait months between appointments. So try your best to get back to finish your full mouth deep cleaning on time.
Once you’re done with your full mouth deep cleaning, you will then schedule a four-to-six-week re-evaluation appointment. They recheck the periodontal chart just like on the initial appointment, and compare the results. They will also do regular cleaning on this day and will polish to make everything fresh and smooth. You will not have to be numb this day. The goal is that there are improvements, less gum inflammation, and healthier tissue. You can’t grow bone back but those gum pockets no longer have inflammation and they no longer have tartar stuck inside of them.
Now we can enter the maintenance stage of cleanings.
Patients are recommended to come in for cleanings every three months for at least the first year. After the first year of three-month recaps, lots of offices will again evaluate whether or not you need to stay on a three-month re-care. Maybe you’ll move to a four-month re-care.
The most important thing you can personally do during the maintenance stage is to keep up with your home care. If your dental provider recommended an electric toothbrush, keep using it. If they recommended a water flosser then keep using your water flosser. The same thing with interdental brushes. There are a bunch of different home care regimens they may have recommended for your individual mouth. Truly do the best you can at home to limit your chance of that tartar coming back below your gums.
In addition, also make sure you stay consistent with your dental appointments. Try not to miss a cleaning appointment. Your dental cleaning appointments and your home care routines are the best things you can do to keep your gums happy and healthy.