Periodontal Cleaning vs Regular Cleaning

Evidence Based
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What is a Periodontal Cleaning?

Periodontal disease primarily occurs from infection and inflammation of the gums and bones that support the teeth. The early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. In this early stage of the condition, the gums may swell, redden, and bleed when brushing or flossing.

The more severe form of the disease is called periodontitis. During this stage, the gums may pull away from the teeth. Some bone may be lost, and the teeth may loosen or fall out. Periodontal disease is most common in adults. 

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Periodontal cleaning is necessary if you experience the following:

  • Bone loss
  • Gum ‘pockets’ deeper than four millimeters
  • Bleeding gums
  • Exposed root surfaces
  • Hard bacterial buildup (tartar or calculus) below the gums

To treat and maintain gum and bone health, periodontal cleaning is required. This type of deep cleaning involves removing tartar and plaque buildup from above and below the gum line. The cleaning reaches down to where the tooth root, gum, and bone meet. 

During the cleaning, rough parts of the roots are smoothed, if necessary. Pocket depths are carefully assessed. Inflamed periodontal pockets may be treated with antibacterial medicines if required.

Approximately 47.2 percent of adults aged 30 years or old have some type of periodontal disease. The condition is more likely to occur with age, with 70.1 percent of adults 65 years or older experiencing periodontal disease.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012

How is a Periodontal Cleaning Done?

Periodontal cleaning takes place at your dentist’s office as an outpatient dental treatment procedure. You may need to arrange several appointments for the treatment, depending on the severity of your disease.

Traditional tools like a scaler and curette are typically used to perform periodontal cleaning. However, there are other instruments available for deep cleaning, including lasers and ultrasonic devices. Generally, new tools and processes for periodontal cleaning are no more effective than traditional techniques. 

Step One

Your dentist may or may not apply a local anesthetic to reduce the discomfort of the procedure. If you’re concerned about the pain, speak to your dentist before the dental treatment.

Step Two 

Your dentist or dental hygienist will start scaling your teeth. This involves removing the plaque buildup from your teeth and any large periodontal pockets that have collected it between your teeth and gums.

Step Three

The next stage involves root planing. Your dentist or dental hygienist will use a scaling tool to smooth the tooth roots. This process creates a smoother surface on the root structure that helps reattach your gums to your teeth. 

At this point, your dentist may also suggest additional treatment depending on the quality of your teeth and gums. For example, your dentist may recommend antimicrobial agents for your mouth or oral antibiotics for you to take daily to help you heal more quickly.

Step Four

Depending on the severity of your condition, your dentist may also perform a procedure called host modulation. During host modulation, additional medication is applied directly into your gums. This process reduces the adverse effects of long-term periodontitis or prevents the chances of infection following periodontal cleaning.

Your dentist may also suggest full mouth disinfection.

Periodontal Cleaning Side Effects

The risks of periodontal treatment are minimal. While you may be at risk of infection shortly after the procedure, your dentist can prescribe a mouthwash or antibiotics to prevent this. Often, it is used for a few days or weeks following treatment.

Patients may experience some pain and sensitivity for a few days after periodontal cleaning and tenderness in the gums. However, any side effects of deep cleaning should clear up within a couple of weeks. If they don’t, speak to your dentist.

Side effects of periodontal cleaning include:

  • Teeth sensitivity 
  • Sore gums 
  • Swollen gums

What is the Difference Between Periodontal Cleaning and Regular Cleaning?

A regular, routine dental cleaning procedure is called prophylaxis. This term is applied to preventative care measures. During a regular cleaning, a dental hygienist scales and polishes the teeth. This process removes all visible plaque and tartar buildup above the gum line. Routine cleanings often occur once or twice a year to prevent oral health problems such as periodontal disease from developing.

Like regular cleaning, periodontal maintenance tackles tartar buildup from the teeth. However, unlike a typical preventative cleaning, deep cleaning is used to combat periodontal disease. The procedure includes both scaling and polishing. Tartar and plaque are removed from deep between the teeth and gums.

How Much Does a Periodontal Cleaning Cost?

The cost of periodontal treatment typically averages between $140 and $300 per quadrant. 

Depending on your insurer, periodontal cleaning may or may not be covered. Before undergoing periodontal maintenance, speak to your insurer to understand what your plan covers. 

Remember, whether you’re covered by insurance or not doesn't preclude periodontal cleaning treatment requirements.

What is the outlook for periodontal disease? 

If periodontal disease is recognized and treated early on, the prognosis is favorable. However, once some bone loss occurs, the outlook depends on the severity of the loss. In these circumstances, lifelong maintenance is necessary once the condition is controlled.

Periodontal cleaning treatment is often incredibly effective if you follow the instructions provided by your dentist during the maintenance stage. 

Are there deep cleaning alternatives?

There are no deep cleaning alternatives. If your dentist recommends periodontal cleaning, it’s because you need one. 

Can deep cleaning cure periodontal disease?

Depending on the severity of your condition, a deep cleaning may cure periodontal disease. However, if your disease has progressed into periodontitis, achieving a state of purely healthy gums is unlikely. Once periodontal disease has advanced into the second stage of the condition, it’s near impossible to reverse the damage.

This is why treating gum disease as soon as possible is essential. Arranging regular cleaning appointments with your hygienist is vital for preventing permanent damage to your gums. Whatever stage of periodontal disease you are at, treating the condition with root planing and scaling is essential.

Does a periodontal cleaning hurt?

Unfortunately, the periodontal cleaning procedure does often hurt, or at the least, can be irritating. That’s because your gums are sore and inflamed, so they are more sensitive.

If your dentist thinks you may experience pain, they will likely apply a local anesthetic to reduce it.

Is periodontal cleaning necessary?

If you are experiencing severe gum disease, periodontal teeth cleaning is necessary. Without treatment, periodontal disease will lead to bone and tooth loss. 

Periodontal cleaning is much less invasive than gum surgery, which is necessary if gum disease advances into severe stages.

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Resources

Periodontal disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013, https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html

Eke, P I et al., Prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010., Journal of dental research vol. 91,10, 2012, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22935673/

Elavarasu, Sugumari et al., Host modulation by therapeutic agents., Journal of pharmacy & bioallied sciences vol. 4,Suppl 2 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3467936/

Sanz, Ignacio et al., Nonsurgical treatment of periodontitis., The journal of evidence-based dental practice vol. 12,3 Suppl (2012): 76-86, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23040340/

Deep cleaning, UT Health San Antonio Dentistry, https://www.uthscsa.edu/patient-care/dental/services/deep-cleaning

Smiley, Christopher & Tracy, Sharon & Abt, Elliot & Michalowicz, Bryan & John, Mike & Gunsolley, John & Cobb, Charles & Rossmann, Jeffrey & Harrel, Stephen & Forrest, Jane & Hujoel, Philippe & Noraian, Kirk & Greenwell, Henry & Frantsve-Hawley, Julie & Estrich, Cameron & Hanson, Nicholas., 2015, Systematic review and meta-analysis on the nonsurgical treatment of chronic periodontitis by means of scaling and root planing with or without adjuncts. Journal of the American Dental Association, 1939, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279307130_Systematic_review_and_meta-analysis_on_the_nonsurgical_treatment_of_chronic_periodontitis_by_means_of_scaling_and_root_planing_with_or_without_adjuncts

Updated on: October 20, 2020
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Ellie Swain
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