Everything You Need To Know About Deep Teeth Cleaning

What To Expect From a Deep Teeth Cleaning

While taking a seat in a dentist’s chair can cause a spike in most people’s stress levels, it’s recommended you have a routine dental cleaning at least once a year.

However, many people, as much as half of US adults, may need the more comprehensive deep cleaning. Find out what that means, why you need it, and what you can look forward to.


Key Takeaways

  • Deep cleaning usually consists of scaling and root planing, which may cause some discomfort.

  • It is done to treat and prevent the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease.

  • Scaling removes tartar and plaque while root planing smooths the surface of teeth below the gum to make it less hospitable for bacteria.

  • Deep cleaning is usually done with a local anesthetic. 

  • Bacteria will cause inflammation and infection of the gums, which can lead to bone loss and eventually loss of teeth.

  • Infections in the mouth can impact your overall health, including increasing chances of heart disease.

  • Deep cleaning can be done at any dentist’s office and is usually covered by insurance.


What Is Deep Teeth Cleaning?

Deep teeth cleaning is a less formal name for a procedure called periodontal scaling and root planing. In some ways, it’s similar to the standard cleaning that you’d get from a dental hygienist. Both involve the removal of plaque and tartar from the teeth and gum line to treat or prevent periodontitis. However, dental deep cleaning is a more thorough treatment most often used when bacteria have already begun to cause a serious infection.

An infection in the gums is called gingivitis or gum disease. It’s usually caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar, which creates an anaerobic environment for bacteria to thrive around the teeth and under the gum line. Left untreated, it can turn into a worse form of infection called periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss and worse [1].


Graph illustrating the Prevalence of Periodontal Disease in the US


Periodontal disease affects about 47.2% of US adults. However, it’s more commonly seen in men (56.4%) than in women (38.4%)


Your mouth can affect your overall health, with gum disease even increasing your risk for heart disease. However, a deep cleaning performed by a dentist, including gum scaling, removes the anaerobic environment that’s bacteria-friendly. Usually, it’s one part of a treatment for the infection. 


Deep Cleaning vs Regular Cleaning


Deep Cleaning vs Regular Cleaning


The difference between a deep dental cleaning, which includes scaling and root planing, and routine dental cleaning is really just a matter of thoroughness. The dental hygienist who will remove plaque from your mouth on your next visit is doing a general cleaning so the dentist can see what may need treatment. Deep cleaning is a more complex procedure, includes root planing, and may include another treatment like using lasers to kill bacteria.

Gum health requires the removal of tartar from the entire tooth, both above and below the gum line. This might be done with an ultrasonic tool, an old-fashioned metal pick, or another tool. 

Root planing is another aspect of gum therapy that smooths out the surface of the tooth below the gum line. A rough surface provides pockets where bacteria can grow. Smoothing the surface prevents pockets from developing. 

Deep cleaning is usually performed in a single visit, though depending on a number of factors, it can also be split into two separate visits.


Who Is Deep Teeth Cleaning For?

It turns out that many people could benefit from deep cleanings. Nearly half of adults in the United States have some degree of tartar buildup, sheltering bacteria that will lead to infection and gum disease. 

Normal dental hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing, can help prevent plaque from forming. When plaque hardens, it becomes tartar which causes infections, so removing plaque will often preemptively treat gum disease by preventing infections. People who don’t keep up with regular brushing and flossing will likely benefit from a deep cleaning. 

Even regular cleaning at a dentist may not be able to take the place of consistent brushing, as the area below the gum line might not be addressed. However, another sign that it may be time to ask your dentist about scaling and root planing treatment is sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth are usually the result of receding gums, one cause of which is periodontitis. Deep cleaning treatment can help halt receding gum lines, though it can’t repair what has already been lost.


What Are the Signs You Need a Deep Cleaning?

Developing sensitive teeth can be a sign that you need a dental deep cleaning to remove tartar and prevent gum disease. However, there are other warning signs that can tip you off to pending or existing gum disease. Among them are:


Top Signs That You Need a Deep Cleaning


  • Bad breath.
  • Red and swollen gums.
  • Bleeding gums.
  • Pain when biting.
  • Receding gums.
  • Discolored plaque build-up.
  • Loosening of teeth.
  • Loss of teeth.

These are all symptoms of gingivitis or, for more serious issues, periodontal disease. Infection caused by bacteria can lead to halitosis or bad breath. But more noticeable may be pain associated with sensitive teeth or a change in the color of teeth as plaque accumulates. Often the first symptom people notice is bleeding gums when brushing or eating.

When gingivitis is serious enough to cause separation of the gum from the tooth surface, periodontal disease is likely. At that point, more severe symptoms like loose teeth or even losing a tooth may occur. This is due to bone loss that is the result of periodontal disease, something that can be confirmed with X-rays. 


Preparing for a Deep Cleaning

While scaling and root planing may seem like an intimidating procedure, there may not be much you need to do to prepare. In fact, if your dentist decides it’s necessary, you may not have much warning before a deep cleaning. It’s possible you may go in for a regular cleaning and receive a deep cleaning instead.

Good dental hygiene is always important and regular brushing in the days leading up to your treatment can be helpful. However, gum disease can also lead to sensitivity and bleeding, so be sure to follow whatever instructions your dentist gives you.


Deep cleaning is used when an infection has caused gingivitis or, more seriously, periodontal disease. It includes two aspects; scaling, where tartar buildup that can hide bacteria is removed, and root planing, which involves smoothing the rough surface of the roots below the gum line. Chemical or laser treatments may also be used.


Deep Teeth Cleaning Pain

Dental hygiene can often require a lot of poking, prodding, and scraping. Scaling and root planing is no different, particularly as it includes cleaning between tooth and gum tissue. However, it is a low-risk procedure and usually, a local anesthetic is all that’s required to keep pain manageable.

While deep teeth cleaning can be uncomfortable due to probing and cleaning below the gum line, it is a necessary procedure to remove infection and prevent the spread of gum disease.


Can I Ask for Deep Teeth Cleaning With Numbing?

Not only can you ask for a local anesthetic, it will likely be a standard part of the deep cleaning procedure. Root planing, in particular, may include some degree of numbing as part of the treatment.

Numbing is only one of the tools dentists have to help manage pain levels, however. It’s not unusual to find music playing or a TV screen in front of many dentists’ chairs today, as a simple distraction can decrease pain and discomfort while your teeth are being cleaned [2]

In the future, your oral hygiene may be tended to while you’re lost in a VR world, as that has been shown to be an even more effective distraction [3].


Deep cleaning teeth, in particular root planing, can cause pain and discomfort, more so than a regular cleaning. However, a local anesthetic is usually enough to keep discomfort manageable. Adding some distractions, such as TV or even VR, can be even more effective.


Pros and Cons

Deep cleaning teeth is generally considered the optimal treatment for periodontal disease. When regular cleaning is no longer enough, scaling and root planing can reduce inflammation and give your teeth a chance to heal. However, no treatment is completely risk-free.



Deep Teeth Cleaning Advantages

  • Removes tartar and bacteria: Reduces inflammation.
  • Can reduce or prevent gum disease: Allows regrowth of healthy tissue so gums reattach to teeth.
  • Can improve overall health: Improving oral health can reduce chances of heart disease and other illnesses.
  • Low risk and non-surgical: Widely practiced procedure with small risk of side effects.


Deep Teeth Cleaning Disadvantages

  • Can cause discomfort: May cause pain and/or bleeding.
  • May not fully address infection: Scaling and root planing address the causes of infection, but may not wholly resolve it.
  • Can cause increased sensitivity: Sometimes causes sensitivity, particularly to heat and cold, or even nerve damage.
  • Can make teeth vulnerable to further infection: Can spread bacteria around the mouth or even to the bloodstream.
  • May not be effective long term: Often requires antibiotics after treatment to prevent recurrence of gum disease.



Deep cleaning is usually the first option for treating gum disease, as it is effective, low risk, and can be performed in a regular office visit. While the procedure is considered generally safe, it can be uncomfortable, cause bleeding, create more sensitivity, and even spread bacteria further in the body. In some cases, deep cleaning has to be paired with antibiotics.


Deep Cleaning Teeth Before and After


Deep Cleaning Teeth Before and After Pictures


Deep Teeth Cleaning Cost: With and Without Insurance

Deep cleanings are used as treatments for gingivitis or periodontitis. As a result, they are considered necessary procedures and are therefore likely to be covered by dental insurance. The specifics of your insurance policy will determine how much of the procedure cost is covered.

Without insurance, the cost of this sort of gum therapy can range between $150 and $250 for one quadrant of the mouth. A full mouth deep teeth cleaning cost will therefore range between $600 and $1000, though the price may vary. Compare that to the cost of preventative regular cleanings, which is usually around $90 [4].


Deep Teeth Cleaning Near Me: Where Do I Go?

Deep teeth cleanings are a standard procedure that you can probably receive at any dentist’s office in your area. In fact, a deep cleaning can be performed during a regular visit without any special preparation.


Deep cleaning may cost between $600 and $1000 for the entire mouth. The procedure can be performed by any dentist in your area.


Deep Teeth Cleaning After Care

While dental deep cleaning is an effective treatment for gum disease, it works best when it’s paired with a wider focus on oral health. The treatment doesn’t stop once you get out of the dentist’s chair. Instead, you’ll have to follow a preventative maintenance routine, as well as potentially taking antibiotics. They may take the form of a mouth rinse or other medication.

After a deep cleaning, separated gums reattach to the tooth as it heals [5]. However, during that process it’s important to avoid sticky foods or anything that may impede that process. You may have to return for a follow-up visit as the dentist monitors the healing process.


Taking Antibiotics

Gum diseases are the result of bacteria spreading in the mouth. While deep cleaning removes tartar that hides bacteria, it may not remove the whole infection, particularly in more severe cases. The best results are often found when antibiotics are also used. As a result, your dentist may prescribe antibiotic pills or mouthwash. To ensure gum disease is addressed and does not return, be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions [6]


Managing Pain Levels

Deep dental cleaning involves scraping away bacteria from tissue that is already inflamed and probably painful. Once the anesthetic wears off, you may end up with a sore and sensitive mouth. Your dentist might have some suggestions to help. Additionally, there are a number of over-the-counter products used for managing tooth and gum pain. If pain increases or continues, contact your dentist.


Healing Process

A deep cleaning is really just the start of addressing gum disease. As we’ve discussed, gum disease can cause bone loss and receding gums. After the cleaning, gums may reattach to teeth and oral hygiene generally may improve. Following your dentist’s instructions is the best way to go, but regular teeth cleanings and brushing twice a day will promote healing.


Treatment may continue after a deep cleaning in the form of antibiotics, either as a pill or a mouth rinse. You may feel some pain after teeth scaling and planing. If the pain doesn’t fade or increase, contact your dentist. Good oral hygiene, including routine dental cleanings, can help the healing process. Always follow your dentist’s instructions.



Find short, simple answers to commonly asked questions about deep teeth cleaning below.


Is It Painful To Get a Deep Teeth Cleaning at the Dentist?

Can I Do Deep Teeth Cleaning at Home?

Does a Deep Teeth Cleaning Hurt Afterwards?

How Long Does It Take For Gums to Heal After Deep Teeth Cleaning?

Will My Teeth Be Whiter After a Deep Cleaning?

Can Teeth Fall Out After a Deep Cleaning?



Visiting the dentist is never a fun time and it’s not surprising that many people avoid it. However, plaque can quickly build up, even with regular brushing. It’s a problem that can snowball, potentially leading to tooth loss and raising your odds of wider health issues. It can all be avoided with regular trips to your dentist for checkups and cleanings.



  1. Mehrotra, Neha. “Periodontitis.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 May 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541126/.
  2. Appukuttan D. P. (2016). Strategies to manage patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia: literature review. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dentistry, 8, 35–50. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCIDE.S63626
  3. Ram D, Shapira J, Holan G, Magora F, Cohen S, Davidovich E. Audiovisual video eyeglass distraction during dental treatment in children. Quintessence Int. 2010 Sep;41(8):673-679. PMID: 20657857.
  4. “Dental Fees Results from the 2013 Survey of Dental Fees.” America's Pediatric Dentists, 2013, https://www.aapd.org/assets/1/7/PolicyCenter-2013_Survey_of_Dental_Fees.pdf.
  5. Douglass, Chester W. “Meta‐Analysis of the Effect of ... - Wiley Online Library.” Wiley Online Library, Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 11 Dec. 2002, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1600-051X.2002.291102.x.
  6. Zandbergen, Dina, et al. “The Concomitant Administration of Systemic Amoxicillin and Metronidazole Compared to Scaling and Root Planing Alone in Treating Periodontitis: =a Systematic Review= - BMC Oral Health.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 29 Feb. 2016, https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-015-0123-6.


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