You may have heard people refer to getting a “deep cleaning” by their dentist. “Deep cleaning” is a commonly used term for a procedure known as scaling and root planing. Scaling and root planing involves going farther below the gumline to remove heavy deposits of tartar than what is normally done in a regular cleaning.
Not every patient needs scaling and root planing. Some patients are more prone to tartar buildup (also known as calculus) and gum disease than others. If gum disease is not treated, it can progress to periodontal disease and lead to deep pockets under the gum tissues around teeth. In this situation, a deep cleaning is recommended to remove tartar and reduce gum inflammation, allowing gum tissues to heal. Patients who do not have heavy tartar buildup and deep gum pockets do not need scaling and root planing - a regular cleaning is effective. Getting regular cleanings will often prevent the need for a deep cleaning in the future.
Because scaling and root planing involves going deep below the gumline to clean teeth, numbing medicine is given to make the procedure comfortable, just like for a filling. After the procedure is finished, gum tissues will often become noticeably healthier (firm and pink) in just a week or two. After that, good oral hygiene at home and regular follow-up visits are important to maintaining healthy gums.