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Deep Cleaning In Houston, TX: Do You Really Need It?

When gum disease strikes, deep cleaning helps keep the gum infection at bay.

By Jennifer
Photography by Pete

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Everyone should get a routine dental cleaning at least every six months. If you have a history of frequent or severe dental problems, your hygienist may ask you to come in every three or four months instead. But what happens if you haven’t been flossing regularly, and it’s been a while since you last came in for a dental cleaning? You may notice that your gums have turned red and puffy, and they might even bleed when you do return to your flossing. In more extreme cases, your teeth may start to look longer as the gums recede, and your teeth may even become loose!

These are all warning signs of periodontal disease. It first starts as simple gingivitis, as the gums become irritated and inflamed. While red and bleeding gums are common, they’re not severe and can be reversed with consistent brushing and flossing for about two weeks. However, once the gums start to recede and deep pockets form between your teeth and gums, your gum disease has turned into much more severe periodontitis. Excellent dental hygiene habits aren’t enough to cure this later stage. More likely than not, our dentist will recommend scaling and root planing, also commonly known as deep cleaning or periodontal maintenance.

What Happens During Periodontal Maintenance?

Deep cleaning goes beyond a regular dental cleaning to free your teeth down to the roots of plaque, bacteria, and tartar. When treating gum disease, we need to remove all buildup below the gums so the soft tissues can breathe again and start healing. Deep cleaning teeth is a double process of both scaling and root planing. Each is focused on a different aspect of your treatment—plaque removal and gum healing.

Periodontal Scaling. Scaling uses ultrasonic or hand scalers to scrape and remove all tartar and plaque buildup from the teeth’s surface and below the gum line. The hygienist also removes the hard deposits from the gum pockets using precise motions. Since your inflamed and swollen gums may be a bit sensitive, we may numb your gums with a local anesthetic to ensure you’re comfortable throughout the process.

Root Planing. Once scaling is done, our hygienist will move onto root planing. During root planing, the hygienist will go deeper into the gum line to smooth the teeth’s roots and remove any remaining tartar and infected gum tissue. Smooth roots help your receding gums heal and attach themselves back to the teeth better. Gum pockets will shrink, which in turn prevents the future bacteria, plaque, and tartar from collecting under the gum line and jumpstarting the periodontitis process again. In some cases, our dentist may also use antibiotics during your periodontitis treatment to ensure complete infection removal and gum recovery.

Your dental hygienist will want to be as thorough as possible. A complete deep cleaning typically requires more than one visit, usually between two and four appointments, dividing your smile into halves or quarters. With only two visits, appointments last about 90 minutes. Four visits require shorter visits, with each being about 45 minutes.

How Often Should You Get A Deep Cleaning?

Ideally, a single deep cleaning treatment should be enough to heal and return your old, healthy gums. With good oral hygiene habits, many patients can keep their periodontal health in check and enjoy nice, pink gums. We still recommend scheduling regular follow-up appointments. These may be every six months or more regularly (every three to four months) to ensure your gum disease doesn’t return. When it comes to the dangers of periodontal disease, it’s better to be safe than sorry with your dental health and smile.

However, deep cleanings are also called periodontal maintenance because most cases of severe gum disease need frequent appointments to keep the infection in check. Our mouth is host to millions of oral bacteria. A single deep cleaning won’t make them all go away, especially if your periodontitis has already made a permanent mark on your smile. Deep gum pockets won’t heal entirely as the disease gradually destroys your soft tissue and periodontal bone. Instead, the pockets will slowly refill with more plaque and tartar, and eventually deepening further without regular cleanings to clear the debris.

In general, we recommend regular scaling and root planing every three or four months. This is about as often as patients with a history of severe or chronic dental problems see us for a dental cleaning. Our dental hygienists will often schedule the two treatments together (for the first deep cleaning appointment) to save you an extra trip to our office. Scaling and root planing becomes a regular part of their dental hygiene routine that’s no more stressful than a standard teeth cleaning for many patients.

What Can I Expect After Scaling and Root Planing?

After your deep cleaning, you may notice that your teeth will be sensitive to hot and cold. This is normal and usually doesn’t last more than a week. Since the gums have receded, clearing plaque and tartar below the gums expose the teeth’s roots. The roots don’t have the thick enamel casing that the crown above the gums do, so they can be sensitive while your mouth adjusts and gums heal. Our dentist may prescribe you a special medicated toothpaste to help you deal with the sensitivity.

It’s also common to experience gum soreness or bleeding for a few days after scaling and root planing. Your gum infection will have made the soft tissues prone to these symptoms, and clearing out the buildup will make them tender. However, as the soft tissues heal and the swelling goes down, your gums can start returning to their old selves and become a nice, pretty pink. In many cases, your gum pockets will disappear as the teeth reattach and tighten around your teeth. This can also help combat gum recession.

After your final deep cleaning visit, we may ask you to come for regular follow-ups afterward. This will ensure your gums are in great shape without any complications. We may also put you on a course of antibiotics for a few days to root out the infection for more effective periodontitis treatment. Our dentist may also prescribe you an antiseptic mouthwash to help the gums and soft tissues heal. You’ll need to take great care of your teeth and gums to keep your gum disease at bay.

What Happens If Periodontal Disease Goes Untreated?

Without regular periodontal maintenance, you’ll see your periodontitis worsen. Eventually, it can put your entire smile at risk. As gum disease progresses, it doesn’t just inflame or irritate the gums. Oral bacteria will gradually destroy the gums, connective ligaments, and even the alveolar jaw bone supporting your teeth. The more these tissues are hurt and damaged, the deeper your gums’ pockets become and the more your teeth lose their anchoring in the jaw.

As gum disease advances, you’ll start to notice more worrying symptoms than red and tender gums or gingival bleeding:

  • Gum pockets deepen
  • Pain when biting down or chewing
  • Teeth become loose, and your bite changes
  • New spaces appear between teeth
  • Dentures no longer fit as they should
  • Pus appears between your teeth and gums as abscesses form
  • Eventual tooth loss

In particularly severe cases, you may still lose one or more of your teeth even if gum disease hasn’t caused enough damage that your teeth fall out on their own. Grafting won’t be enough to save your teeth when too much of the soft tissues and bone supporting them are missing. Most likely, your dentist will need to remove your teeth to save you time and pain.

We want to prevent these worst-case scenarios, if at all possible. Our dentists want to keep your smile in the best and healthiest shape possible, and leaving your gum disease alone can quickly turn into a dental nightmare! If you suspect you may have gum disease—red and bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, teeth looking longer than usual, and loose teeth—don’t wait to see our team for treatment.

Cost Of Periodontal Cleaning

Deep cleanings are more expensive than regular dental cleanings since they are much more comprehensive and typically require two to four visits to complete. Regular dental cleanings are 100% covered by insurance, but what about scaling and root planing? Many insurance companies will cover 50% or more of a patient’s deep cleaning cost. Our dental office aims to keep our patients’ needed treatments as affordable as possible. That’s why we also offer alternative financing options to help with the rest that your insurance won’t cover.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a deep cleaning with our Houston team, please don’t hesitate to call our office today at (832) 916-4144.

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