The Difference Between Dental Deep Cleaning vs Regular Cleaning

Oral health is essential to overall well-being, and regular dental hygiene is vital to maintain healthy teeth and gums. While most people are familiar with the standard teeth cleaning procedure, some may not know the importance of deep cleanings. Deep cleaning teeth, also known as scaling and root planing, is a more intensive procedure that goes beyond the surface-level cleaning of regular cleaning.

This post will explore eight key differences between dental deep and regular cleaning. From the tools used to the duration of the procedure, we'll cover everything you need to know to help you make informed decisions about your dental health. Let's dive in!

What is the difference between dental deep cleaning vs. routine dental cleanings?

Dental deep cleaning and routine dental cleaning, while both essential for oral hygiene, play distinctly different roles. Let's delve into the key differences that set these two vital dental procedures apart.

What is dental deep cleaning?

Deep teeth cleaning procedure

Dental deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing, is an intensive procedure to treat severe gum disease. This advanced cleaning method goes beyond the surface of the teeth, reaching deep below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar build-up.

The purpose of dental deep cleaning

Deep dental cleanings are performed only when the dentist or hygienist finds signs of early gum disease or gingivitis. This procedure is necessary to prevent further disease progression and restore oral health.

Nearly 50% of adults over 30 have some form of gum disease. - CDC

The procedure and techniques of a deep cleaning

A dentist performs a thorough oral examination on his patient

If you've never had a dental deep cleaning, below is a brief look at what to expect:

  1. Examination: At the start, your dentist or dental hygienist will do a thorough exam of your mouth, teeth, and gums.
  2. X-rays: If necessary, X-rays make be taken for a detailed view of your teeth and jaws to detect hidden issues.
  3. Scaling: A scaling tool will remove plaque and tartar build-up from your teeth and gum line. 
  4. Root planing: In this step, the dentist smoothens the root surfaces of your teeth to prevent future build-up of plaque and tartar. 
  5. Antibacterial rinse: After the above steps, your mouth will be rinsed with an antibacterial mouthwash to kill any remaining bacteria.
  6. Fluoride treatment: Lastly, a fluoride treatment may be applied to your teeth to strengthen them and protect against cavities.

Each step of the dental deep cleaning process ensures your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible. 

The time and duration

The overall time and duration of a dental deep cleaning appointment will heavily depend upon the level of hardened plaque buildup and the severity of any gum disease present.  

How long does a deep cleaning take?

A deep dental cleaning may often require more than one visit, taking about 1 to 2 hours per mouth quadrant. This means a full-mouth deep cleaning can take 4 to 8 hours, often split into separate appointments for the patient's comfort. The procedure can be completed in one hour in more straightforward deep cleanings with minimal gum disease.

How often should you get deep cleaning teeth?

While the frequency of deep cleanings can vary based on individual dental health, the American Dental Association recommends a deep cleaning once a year. However, those with periodontal disease or other serious dental issues might need this procedure more frequently for optimal oral health.

Indications for dental deep cleaning treatment

Receding gum lines pictures

Indications for dental deep cleaning treatment typically include signs of advanced gum disease, such as:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Receding gum lines
  • Loose teeth

Additionally, if regular dental check-ups reveal pockets greater than 4mm between the gums and teeth, this is a clear signal that deep cleaning is required to prevent further oral damage.

The cost of deep dental cleaning 

The cost of a deep dental cleaning can vary significantly depending on your geographical location, the dentist's expertise, and your dental insurance coverage.  

However, most dental insurance plans partially or fully cover deep cleanings as a preventive measure against severe dental issues.

Recovery and aftercare steps

Recovering from a deep dental cleaning is usually a straightforward process. Still, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure your mouth heals properly and continues to stay clean, including: 

  • Be gentle when brushing and flossing
  • Rinse regularly with warm salt water
  • Avoid food that is too hot, cold, crunchy, or sticky
  • Stay hydrated
  • No smoking

Remember, a deep dental cleaning is a preventive measure, so regular home care and dental visits are still necessary. 

Results and long-term benefits

The outcome of a dental deep cleaning might not resemble a toothpaste advertisement, but the benefits go beyond just the surface.

Sparkling results and lasting benefits of a dental deep cleaning are: 

So, while the process may seem a tad daunting, remember that a dental deep cleaning can lead to a healthier, happier smile in the long run! 

What is regular dental cleaning?

Regular teeth cleanings are considered the cornerstone of preventive dentistry. It's usually best to have your teeth cleaned every six months.  

  • Duration: A regular dental cleaning usually takes about an hour and does not require multiple appointments.
  • Procedure: During a regular cleaning, your dentist or hygienist will clean the surface of your teeth and the gum line. They'll remove plaque and tartar, followed by professional flossing and polishing, whereas deep dental cleaning goes further. 
  • Goal: Regular cleaning aims to maintain oral health and prevent issues like cavities and gum disease. Deep cleaning is more of a treatment designed to combat periodontal disease.

Note: It's important to remember that while regular dental cleanings are essential for everyone, deep cleanings are typically only recommended for those with specific oral health issues.

When to consult your dentist about dental cleanings?

A young woman is having a consultation regarding teeth cleaning

Regular check-ups and cleanings are important. However, if you're experiencing certain symptoms, it may be time to schedule a dental cleaning appointment. Symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Persistent bad breath  
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold 
  • Bleeding gums or pain while chewing  
  • Visible tartar 
  • Regular smokers 

How to determine which cleaning is right for you?

Choosing between a deep dental or regular cleaning largely depends on oral health. Regular cleaning every six months may be enough if you have healthy gums and teeth and follow good oral hygiene habits. On the other hand, if you're experiencing signs like bleeding gums, bad breath, or loose teeth, it's probably time to consider deep cleaning.

Why regular cleaning isn't enough for dental health?

Plaque buildup on teeth pictures

There is no denying the importance of regular cleaning for maintaining oral health.  However, it's worth noting that it might not be sufficient in some circumstances.

  1. Plaque build-up: Regular brushing and flossing can't always reach the hard-to-access areas in the mouth, leading to the accumulation of plaque. However, plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can cause gum disease and, if left untreated, can lead to more severe dental issues.
  2. Stains on teeth: Regular cleaning at home may not effectively remove stubborn stains caused by habits like coffee, tea, wine, or tobacco use. Dental cleaning uses professional-grade equipment and techniques to address such stains, leaving your teeth looking cleaner and brighter.
  3. Pre-existing Dental Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing dental conditions, such as cavities or gum diseases, require more than just regular cleaning. Dental cleanings by professionals can help manage these conditions and prevent them from worsening.

In essence, dental cleaning offers a layer of protection that goes beyond the capabilities of regular cleaning.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make deep cleaning less painful?

To make deep cleaning less painful, communication is key. Inform your dentist about your sensitivity so they can use numbing agents or sedation options appropriately.

Do you need antibiotics after deep cleaning?

Typically, antibiotics aren't necessary after a deep dental cleaning. However, in cases where gum disease is severe or there's a high risk of infection, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure.

How common is infection after deep cleaning?

The risk of infection after a deep dental cleaning is generally low, given that proper aftercare guidelines are followed. However, patients with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, may have a slightly higher risk.

Will deep cleaning stop gum disease?

Yes, a deep dental cleaning can halt the progression of gum disease by effectively reducing inflammation and bacterial growth, which are key contributors to periodontal disease.

How much is deep teeth cleaning without insurance?

This type of dental procedure can range from $150 to $350 per quadrant without insurance.


Regular and deep dental cleanings are significant in the grand scheme of oral health. However, understanding the differences between the two can assist you in making informed decisions that best support your dental health journey.

Contact Smiles by Design today to learn more about dental cleanings and find out what is right for you!