Dental Cleaning

Dental Cleanings

The American Dental Association recommends most kids and adults to have regular dental cleanings and checkups every 6 months.

Getting your teeth cleaned is likely one of the best things about going to the dentist. Having that fresh, smooth feeling of your teeth can be refreshing and invigorating!

So what encompasses a dental cleaning? Typically done by your gentle dental hygienist in Edgewood, most cleanings usually take 30-40 minutes. The main goal of the cleaning is to remove food debris and plaque on the teeth and adjacent gum tissues. Left untreated, the plaque harbors bacteria which can lead to tooth decay (cavities), gum disease, and halitosis (bad breath).

There are two types of cleanings: regular cleaning (prophy) and deep cleaning (scaling and root planing).

Regular Cleaning

A “traditional” regular dental cleaning, or also called adult prophylaxis, is indicated for gums that are healthy (no bleeding) to minimal inflammation (light gingival puffiness and bleeding) with little to no bone involvement. A regular cleaning begins with a very light and gentle scaling and root planing. Scaling is the removal of plaque, hardened debris and tartar from the tooth, and is done at and above the gum line. It’s usually done with a hand instrument, but new advanced technology has enabled the scaling to be also done with a electronic ultrasonic device. This ultrasonic tool allows cleanings to be done efficiently, more quickly, and very gently.

Root planing goes beyond the gum line and extend onto the root surfaces, where the spaces or “pockets” below the gums are cleaned. For normal healthy gums, gingival pockets are minimal in size (i.e 3mm or less).

In general, for most healthy adults and children regular cleanings every 6 months is recommended to help control plaque buildup, and also to assess the condition of the teeth and gingival health.

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) is indicated for those with mild, moderate, and advanced gum and bone disease, also called periodontitis. Bone disease is a progressive extension of gingivitis. The bacteria that normally resides around the gums have extended down to the level of the bony structures supporting the teeth. The pockets thus become deeper (i.e. >4-5mm) and harbors more bacteria and plaque. And with the deep pockets, the gums become more inflamed and likely to have bleeding and infection.

During a deep cleaning, the scaler is extended beyond the gum line into the pockets to remove the bacteria, plaque, and tartar trapped beneath the gum line. Sometimes a deep cleaning may take more than one appointment, and the gums may be numbed with a topical or local anesthetic for increased comfort.

After completion of the deep cleaning, it is recommended that one has cleanings every 3-4 months. Called “periodontal maintenance” the purpose of these cleanings and visits is to control and monitor the bone levels; more frequent periodontal cleanings are recommended as the bacteria in the deeper pockets tend to reoccur more frequently and aggressively.


The polish is usually the last step in the dental cleaning, though sometimes a polish may be done first if there is excessive plaque. After the initial steps of the dental cleanings are done, parts of the teeth may feel a little rough. The dental hygienist or assistant will use a rubber cup spinning at very low speeds to smooth and polish the teeth and root surfaces. And typically during the polish a fine paste containing a mild abrasive to help remove extrinsic (external) stains and plaque is used, and to also help smooth out the tooth’s enamel.

If you have any questions regarding regular and deep cleanings for your dentist or hygienist, contact us at (253) 952-6112.